B Sai Praneeth enters World Championships semis, first Indian male to win medal in 36 years
India's B Sai Praneeth recorded a stunning straight-game win over Indonesia's Jonatan Christie to seal the semifinal spot and end India's 36-year agonising wait for a men's singles medal at the BWF World Championships in Basel on Friday. World No. 19 Praneeth, who was awarded the Arjuna Award this year, notched up a 24-22 21-14 win over Asian Games gold medallist and World No. 4 Jonatan in the quarterfinals to assure himself of a medal at the prestigious tournament.
Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a men's singles World Championships medal -- a bronze -- in the 1983 edition. Praneeth, who had won the Singapore Open in 2017 and finished runners-up at Swiss Open earlier this year, came into the tournament with a 1-2 head-to-head count against the Indonesian.
In the opening game, the Indian jumped to a 8-4 lead, but Jonatan stepped up to claw back at 10-10 before Praneeth managed a slender 11-10 advantage at the break with the help of a delicate shot at the net.
The duo continued their battle after the breather as Jonatan kept breathing down the Indian's neck. Praneeth eventually grabbed a game point at 20-19 with a cross court smash at the back, but Jonatan turned the tables and enjoyed a game point himself.
However, Praneeth ensured he had the last laugh. The Indian unleashed a powerful smash which the Indonesian hit wide and then his rival's weak return got buried at the net.
Praneeth missed the shuttle at the backline to concede a point but he grabbed the required two points -- the last one with a cross court smash -- to pocket the opening game.
The second game turned out to be a one-way traffic as Praneeth came out with all cylinders blazing to, first surge to a 7-1 lead, and then a massive 11-3 advantage at the break.
Jonatan tried to recover and narrowed the gap to 12-15 but the Indian stepped up to grab six match points, punishing a weak return and then shutting the door on Jonatan, who went wide.
(With PTI inputs)