By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, April 21 (IANS) B. Sai Praneeth, the latest among Indian shuttlers to make their mark in the international arena by winning his maiden Super Series title, believes that this could be a turning point for his career.
He won the Singapore Open on Sunday by defeating Kadambi Srikanth, his training partner at the Gopichand Badminton Academy here, giving a big boost to his confidence and career.
The World No. 30 defeated Srikanth, ranked a place higher, 17-21, 21-17, 21-12, to win his maiden Super Series title.
“It can be turning point for my career. From now on, I will have the confidence. I know where I am and at which level I am playing,” Praneeth told IANS in an interview on his return home.
It was the first time in the history of badminton that two Indians played the final of a Super Series championship.
“It was very, very long wait. There were injuries in between and my performance went down. I was waiting for one good performance and I got it now,” said Praneeth, who was dismissed by some as a one-match wonder.
Despite defeating big guns like Lee Chong Wei and Taufik Hidayat in his career, the 24-year-old was unlucky not have big titles to his name.
“I was hoping that someday I would win a big tournament. I got one now and I want to continue winning big tournaments like this,” said Praneeth, who took up the racquet at the age of eight.
He now looks for consistency and wants to focus on fitness ahead of the Indonesian and Australian Opens. He hopes to qualify for the World Championship thanks to his improved in ranking.
Facing Srikanth, winner of 2014 China Open and 2015 India Open, in the Singapore Open final was not easy for Praneeth.
“It was tough playing with a player with whom you practice every day,” said Praneeth, who had been practicing with Srikanth for the past eight years.
“When you play somebody with whom you practice regularly, you know his weak points and he knows your weak points. Winning points is not easy and your strategy doesn’t work because the opponent knows how you respond,” explained the Hyderabadi.
Down by a game and trailing 2-7 in the second, Praneeth made a strong comeback. “By taking a lead, I gained confidence and I maintained it till the end,” he recalled.
Praneeth believes that with more Indian shuttlers showing their mettle, there may be more all-Indian finals at international competitions. He feels that such contests will have no impact on the personal equation he shares with his practice partner.
“A match is a match. You can’t relate the match with your personal relationship. We have to win no matter who is the opponent,” said Praneeth, who scored his fifth victory over Srikanth in six meetings.
Praneeth has come a long way since defeating former World and Olympic champion Toufik Hidayat in the first round of the 2013 Indonesian Open and reigning World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the first round of the 2016 All England championship.
He had come close to defeating World and Olympic champion Lin Dan in the Malaysian Open earlier this month.
(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)