Premier Badminton League: Sai Praneeth eyes the sky!
After winning the last PBL and going on to claim a historic World Championship bronze, India shuttler B Sai Praneeth is hoping a repeat show in the league can boost his Tokyo Olympics bid.
Bhamidipati Sai Praneeth, 27, had a brilliant 2019, where he won a historic World Championships bronze medal in Basel, Switzerland, becoming the first Indian male shuttler to achieve that feat since Prakash Padukone 36 years ago.
He finished second best at the Swiss Open and could only be halted by World No. 1 and local hero Kento Momota in the semi-finals of the Japan Open.
The Hyderabadi's world ranking in 2019 soared to a career-best 11, and though it currently stands at 22, he remains a serious medal contender at this year's Tokyo Olympics (July 24-August 9). However, before that, there's the franchise-based Premier Badminton League (January 20 to February 9)—a tournament that last year laid the foundation for his best year in badminton.
Grateful to PBL
"PBL was a great start to the year and finishing 2019 with a medal at the Worlds along with some good Super Series outings made it my best year. I played some exceptional matches at the PBL, giving me the much-needed confidence. I wasn't in the best of form before that but after these wins, I got into rhythm and followed it up with a final appearance at the Swiss Open," Sai Praneeth told mid-day recently.
This being an Olympic year, he's walking a tight rope between form and fitness. "There are four months for the Olympic qualification process to end and it's important that I maintain my fitness but maintaining fitness has never been easy for me. With so many tournaments ahead of the qualification, I need to give it my best shot while picking and choosing events to ensure my qualification," he said.
However, with chief national coach Pullela Gopichand by his side, Sai Praneeth hopes to repeat history in 2020.
Gopichand's positive role
"I have been with Gopi bhaiya since the very first day of his coaching career, when he picked me from a summer camp. He has played a very important role in my life and to many others ever since he became India coach. His observations are brilliant and inputs are crucial. During the World Championships in Basel, my quarter-final against Indonesia's Jonathan Christie was tough. At one stage in the opening game, we were tied and he was dominating the proceedings. Gopi sir suddenly told me to stop attacking and only defend. I did that and the game turned on its head. Christie started hitting out and making mistakes and I won the first game [24-22]. I breezed past the second game to assure myself of a medal. I hope 2020 is equally great," added Sai Praneeth.
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