Sai, Sikki race to title wins
Badminton Junior Nationals: Grand double for Andhra Pradesh on final day of competition
Andhra Pradesh lad B Sai Praneeth marched to his maiden title while his state-mate N Sikki Reddy retained the girls’ crown at the 34th Junior National badminton championship which concluded here on Monday.
Second-seeded Sai overpowered HS Prannoy of Air India 21-16, 14-21, 21-15 in a see-saw battle to lift the boys’ title at the PET Sports courts.
“I didn’t have any specific strategy for him,” said Sai. “I had got the better of him before, so I was pretty confident of winning here also. I didn’t give him too much room for smashes, I think that made the difference on the day.
Sai then teamed up with Pranav Chopra of Air India to beat the AP-AI combine of B Sumeet Reddy and Prannoy 21-15, 21-18 in the doubles final to complete a grand double.
Well before that, second-seeded Sikki eked out a 21-17, 21-16 win over team-mate PV Sindhu in the girls’ title round.
“I prepared really well for this meet. I made her play more at the net, which is the weakest part of her game,” said the 17-year-old Sikki.
Sai, who had defeated top seed Sumeet in the semifinals on Sunday, and third seed Prannoy played the best badminton of the five-day meet in a match that lasted 47 minutes.
At 5-all in the first game, Sai came up with a smash and a drop to go two points. To Sai’s credit, he didn’t give too many chances for Prannoy to cut loose his favourite smashes. With Prannoy struggling to keep the shuttle in play, the Andhra player moved well ahead at 19-15. Sai took the first game when Prannoy’s attempted drop went wide.
The second game went neck-and-neck until 13-all when the 17-year-old Prannoy found his rhythm to blast a couple of down-the-line smashes. A point later, Prannoy came up with a neat drop that almost sat on the top of the net and fell on the other side of the court, leaving Sai stranded. The scores were level at one game apiece when Prannoy placed a half-volley smash to the right of Sai.
The third game witnessed a close battle between the two Gopichand Academy trainees. Prannoy even held a two-point lead at 14-12 before fading away. Sai, a second PU student of St Joseph’s Junior College, ended his rival’s agony with a drop-cum-smash.
Results (prefix number denotes seeding, all finals):
Boys: 2-B Sai Praneeth (AP) bt 3-HS Prannoy (AI) 21-16, 14-21, 21-15.
Doubles: 1-Sai Praneeth/ Pranav Chopra (AP/ AI) bt B Sumeet Reddy/ Prannoy (AP/ AI) 21-15, 21-18.
Girls: 2-N Sikki Reddy (AP) bt PV Sindhu (AP) 21-17, 21-16.
Doubles: 1-Sikki Reddy/ PC Thulasi (AP/ Ker) bt 5-Gauri Ghate/ Prajakta Sawant (Mah) 21-15, 21-14.
Mixed doubles: 2-Pranav Chopra/ Prajakta Sawant (AI/ Mah) bt 1-K Nandagopal/ Megha Merin Ninan (Rly/ Ker) 21-12, 21-13.