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August 23, 2019 was a good one for Indian badminton. PV Sindhu assured herself a fifth BWF World Championships medal following a stunning comeback while B Sai Praneeth became the first Indian male shuttler in 36 years to ensure a podium-finish in the prestigious event on Friday.
On a day of double delight for India, Olympic silver medallist Sindhu staged a come-from-behind victory over Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, before Sai Praneeth ended an agonising wait with a straight-game win over Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie.
Sindhu, who won back-to-back silver medals in the last two editions of the tournament to go with her two bronze, edged past world No 2 and Asian Games gold medallist Tzu Ying 12-21, 23-21, 21-19 in a pulsating contest that lasted 71 minutes.
Now she needs to reset and make her march towards that elusive gold medal.
World No. 19 Praneeth, who got the Arjuna Award this year, notched up a 24-22, 21-14 win over Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan in a 51-minute battle, joining Prakash Padukone in the medal list at the tournament.
Padukone was the first Indian to win a men’s singles World Championships medal – a bronze – in the 1983 edition.
Now, on Saturday, both the Indian shuttlers will be in action, once again versus higher ranked opponents, to look for a place in the finals on Sunday.
Here’s a look at the schedule, their opponents’ ranks, and head-to-head:
Sindhu’s match against Chen Yufei is a repeat of the 2017 World Championships semi-final, when the Indian produced one of her best all-round performances in memory. Sindhu met the rising star of women’s singles most recently at the Indonesia Open as well, and won again comfortably.
In her six World Championships appearances so far, Sindhu has never lost against a player from China.
But this match is going to be anything but easy.
Opponent’s rank (seed): 3 (4)
Opponent’s form in 2019: Chen has been on a phenomenal run in the last year, starting with her first major triumph at China Open in 2018 (during the course of which she had defeated Sindhu). Since that, she has since won the All England this year, to go with the Swiss Open, Indonesia Open and Australian Open titles. Her win-loss record this year is a phenomenal 39/5 compared to Sindhu’s 19/9. There should be no surprise that, given her form, Chen leads the race for the Olympic qualification.
Estimated time of match: First match of the day, starts at 2.30 pm IST
Head-to-head: PV Sindhu leads 5-3
B Sai Praneeth
One of the best things about Sai Praneeth’s historic run to the semi-finals at the Worlds is that he has not dropped a game yet in his four matches.
Well, so has his opponent.
There is nothing new to say about Kento Momota, badminton’s most perfect machine going around these days. He has been on a marauding run ever since he returned to the circuit a couple of seasons back and is the best men’s singles player in the game currently, no questions asked.
Sai Praneeth did have a 2-0 record against him a few years back but has lost all three meetings against the Japanese since his return to the game. But the thing about the world No 19 ranked Indian is that he seems to reserve his best for higher-ranked players at big events. (Remember the match against Lee Chong Wei at All England anyone?)
Opponent’s rank (seed): 1 (1)
Opponent’s form in 2019: Momota, who has won 12 titles since the beginning of the 2017 season, has a stunning 34/5 record this year too. His list of titles in 2019 read: All England Open, German Open, Asian Championships, Japan Open and Singapore Open. Of the 8 games he has played so far at Basel 2019, he has dropped more than 12 points only once: against HS Prannoy in the opener of the last 16 match.
We could go on, but you get the picture.
Estimated time of match: To start one match after Sindhu’s, around 4 pm.
Head-to-head: Momota leads 3-2