World Championships: Sindhu, Praneeth assure medals

Basel (Switzerland): Shuttler Sai Praneeth on Friday ended India’s 36-year wait for a medal in the men’s section of the BWF World Championships by sealing his place in the semifinals of the prestigious event, thereby assuring himself a bronze medal.

After Prakash Padukone clinched a bronze at the Worlds in 1983, Praneeth quenched India’s thirst for an elusive medal by stunning world No. 4 Jonatan Christie of Indonesia 24-22, 21-14 in the quarterfinal. 

Praneeth’s triumph came little after P.V. Sindhu assured herself of a fifth World Championships medal as she rallied to beat world No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei 12-21, 23-21, 21-19 for a place in the semifinals, thus keeping alive her hopes of a third straight appearance in the Worlds final. 

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Tai Tzu has a superior record against Sindhu, but Sindhu had won in their last meeting in 2018. 

Tai Tzu, who last year claimed Chinese Taipei’s first-ever badminton gold at the Asian Games, opened up a 7-point lead and from then on peppered Olympic silver medallist Sindhu with back-to-back smashes.

A brilliant rally saw Tai Tzu maintain her dominance and win the first game 21-12 as Sindhu had no answer to her returns.

The Indian started strongly in the second game, winning her first point with a strong smash. Tai Tzu fought back to take a 5-3 lead before Sindhu levelled the score at 8-8 and then led 11-9 at the break.

The rallies were long and Sindhu even fell to the floor while attempting to return a sharp Tai Tzu shot.

It was a see-saw battle after the breather as both Sindhu and Tai Tzu refused to budge. It was even at 21-21 before Sindhu showed composure and skill to win the game 23-21 to stay afloat.

In the decider, Tai Tzu opened up a 5-2 lead before Sindhu fought back to go into the break trailing 9-11. It was exhilarating badminton from there on as Sindhu took the lead from 15-15 before winning 21-19.

Just a week after being chosen for the Arjuna Award, world No. 19 Praneeth breezed past Christie 24-22, 21-14 in 51 minutes to progress to the semifinals.

Christie earned the first point of the match but after taking a 4-2 lead, he frittered the advantage as Praneeth started to take charge of the proceedings. 

Praneeth went into the break with a slender 11-10 lead and looked more dangerous after the breather to win a close game.

Praneeth was in his elements in the second game, as Christie made a number of mistake. The Indian went into the break with a massive 11-3 advantage as Christie kept gifting him with easy points.

After the break, Christie tried to make a comeback but Praneeth held on with a flurry of smashes to close the deal in his second match point. 

In the semifinal, Praneeth will be up against defending champion and world No.1 Kento Momota of Japan.

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