Sudirman Cup Offers Praneeth Fresh Start

Sai Praneeth B. went into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with big hopes as the 13th seed but his journey ended in disappointment as he dropped out early after finishing Group D bottom, following surprise straight-games losses to lower-ranked Misha Zilberman and Mark Caljouw.

This weekend, the 29-year-old returns to action at the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup 2021 in Vantaa, Finland eager to atone for his below par showing in Japan.

Praneeth and Kidambi Srikanth will lead India’s charge in men’s singles against their Group A opponents – Thailand, host nation Finland and defending champions China.

“(Tokyo) was disappointing but we have a lot of tournaments coming up. I can’t keep that in mind and spoil the other tournaments. Any sportsperson will feel bad if you lose that way but you have to think ‘this is not the last tournament of my career’,” the world No.15 told The Bridge.

Praneeth had a poor Olympics by his standards.

“I’m excited (about the Sudirman Cup) and at the same time it’s my first tournament after the Olympics. I will get good match practice and some good teams to play.”

India will be without rested women’s singles star Pusarla V. Sindhu but Praneeth is optimistic the new-look team, with six players below the age of 23, can give a good account of itself.

“Sindhu isn’t playing but we can definitely beat the teams. We have to take each event at a time. We never know what can happen. It’s a team event and the pressure is also on our opponents. We have a good team and we are looking forward to it.”

The World Championships 2019 bronze medallist also believes that in Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, India have a men’s pair than can compete with and defeat the best.

“Two or three years ago we were not so confident but now they can beat anybody. It’s a good opportunity to prove they are one of the most important pairs,” said Praneeth of the world No.10s.

At the conclusion of the Sudirman Cup, Praneeth and Co will head to Aarhus, Denmark for the TotalEnergies BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2020 (9-17 October). India’s Uber Cup team will again be without Pusarla but Praneeth is confident 31-year-old former world No.1 Saina Nehwal, who is making a comeback after failing to qualify for Tokyo 2020, can inspire her teammates.

“She has the hunger and everybody knows that is why she’s still playing. She’s one of the greatest players of India. She changed Indian badminton. I hope she performs well,” said Praneeth.

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