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New court for Mumbai's Prajakta Sawant

Mumbai's Prajakta set to become first Indian to play alongside a foreign partner -- Malaysia's Yogendran Khrishnan at World C'ships in August


India's Prajakta Sawant and Malaysia's Yogendran Khrishnan came together recently

Mumbai-based Prajakta Sawant is set to become the first Indian to play alongside a foreign partner at the BWF Championships later this year.

Sawant is paired with Malaysia's Yogendran Khrishnan in the mixed doubles event at the August 21-27 tournament in Glasgow, Scotland.

Thirty-four-year-old Khrishnan runs the New Vision Badminton Academy (NVBA) in Kuala Lumpur, where Sawant (24) has been training since 2014 and that's how their partnership came about.

Malaysia shift
Sawant shifted to Malaysia in 2014 and decided to play with a trans-national player after it became difficult for her to find an Indian partner following her allegations of favouritism against national coach Pullela Gopichand. Sawant went to court claiming that Gopichand has been mentally harassing her since 2012.

It may be recalled that Sawant, in 2014, told mid-day that she did not feel like playing for India anymore after her non-selection in the Uber Cup in New Delhi.

"I shifted to Malaysia in 2014 and paired up with Malaysia's Vountus Indra Mawan. I came back to India the following year and played alongside Akshay Dewalkar from Mumbai, but our partnership was broken in the national camp later that year. So, I shifted back to Malaysia, where I've now partnered with Yogendran," said Sawant, who has no regrets about her international move. "I think I made the right decision to shift to Malaysia. It has helped me get more international recognition," she said.
Sawant felt that though she has got the opportunity to play in her maiden world championships a tad too late, it's a golden chance nevertheless to prove her critics wrong.

"I feel I could have played the World Championship a few years ago had I not been a part of the internal politics in the Indian badminton system. But it's never too late and I want to make full use of this opportunity by doing my best at the Championship. This could well be my first and last opportunity, as I don't know if I will be able to qualify for the next World Championships," added Sawant.

The Indo-Malaysian pair, who are ranked 39 in the world, will be playing in the New Zealand Open Grand Prix Gold event in August before heading to Glasgow for the Worlds.

It's unique: Popat
Nine-time national champion Aparna Popat said that though Sawant's participation with a foreigner in the World Championships is unique, its unlikely that others will follow suit.

"Ashwini (Ponnappa) has played a few tournaments with Russia's Vladimir Ivanov a few years ago in mixed doubles but not in the World Championships, so Prajakta will be the first Indian to do so. She has done whatever works for her, it's her own decision, but I don't think this will set a trend of more Indians playing with foreigners.," said Popat.

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