B Sai Praneeth ended India’s 36-year wait for a men’s singles medal when he upset Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie in straight games to reach the semi-finals of the BWF Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, on Friday.
The only other Indian men’s singles medal came way back in 1983 when Prakash Padukone grabbed a bronze medal in Copenhagen.
India are now assured of two medals from this edition of the championship as PV Sindhu earlier upset world No 2 Tai Tzu Ying 12-21, 23-21, 21-19 in the women’s singles quarter-finals to reach her fifth world championship semi-final in six attempts.
The 27-year-old trainee of Gopichand Badminton Academy had to work hard in the opening game as he sqaundered two game points and saved one himself but was in complete control in the second to beat world No 4 Christie 24-22, 21-14 in 51 minutes. Sai Praneeth, seeded 16th, has not dropped a game yet so far in the tournament.
He will now face top seed and defending champion Kento Momota in the semi-final. The Japanese hammered Lee Zii jia of Malaysia 21-12, 21-8 in the other quarter-final.
The opening game between Sai Praneeth and Christie was played at an energy-sapping pace as both players tried to out hit each other. While the Indonesian was the first to get off the block, the Indian came back by winning six straight points to take a 8-4 lead.
However, there was not much to chose between the two as they relied on their big smashes to win the points and went neck and neck with each other till Sai Praneeth earned his first game point. He squandered it with an unforced error and then had to rely on his smashing ability to save a game point himself to level the scores at 21-21.
The 2017 Singapore Open Superseries champion would miss out on converting another game point as he made a mistake of judgement on the baseline after a 32-shot rally. He, however, kept his composure to finish off another big rally with a booming smash on the sideline and pocketed the game that lasted 31 minutes.
The second game was a relative cakewalk for the Indian as he opened up a 7-1 lead and then went into the mid-game interval with an eighth-point cushion. At this point, Christie had no choice but to go for broke; the 21-year-old tried to go on an all-out attack mode but Sai Praneeth’s defence stood strong under relentless pressure as the former world junior bronze medallist wrapped up the match on his first match point.