Unheralded Indian shuttler B Sai Praneeth scripted one of the biggest wins of his career, stunning two-time Olympic silver medallist and former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the opening round of the prestigious All England Championship.
In a match that lasted 50 minutes, Praneeth punched way above his weight as he eked out a 24-22 22-20 win over three-time champion and second seed Lee Chong Wei in a men’s singles match late last night.
He will next take on Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, ranked 26th in the world. The Indian had retired midway in their only meeting in 2013 French Open.
Besides, ace Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth and Sameer Verma too entered the second round of the USD 550,000 tournament at the Barclaycard Arena here.
World No. 2 Saina, who is making a comeback after a long injury lay-off, dispatched Commonwealth Games champion Michelle Li of Canada 21-17 21-12 to set up a clash with Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungphan.
World No. 10 Srikanth too showed the door to England’s Rajiv Ouseph, a silver medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, 21-17 21-12. The Guntur lad will meet Japan’s Kento Momota, seeded fourth, here.
Young Sameer also dished out a superb performance as he dismantled Hong Kong’s Hu Yun 21-10 21-14 in another men’s singles match and will meet Chinese eight seed Tian Houwei next.
For two-time bronze medallist at World Championship, P V Sindhu, it turned out to be yet another disappointing tournament as she lost 21-18 17-21 12-21 to Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand.
But the star of the day for India was Praneeth as he Indian stunned fans around the world into silence, dumping Lee Chong Wei in the first round.
The Malaysian legend inexplicably squandered huge leads of 11-3 and 15-7 in the opening game and 16-10 and 17-12 in the second game to succumb to a humiliating defeat at the hands of an unheralded Indian.
“This is a big shock to me. I am very happy. I have been waiting for a big result like this. I got more confidence when I levelled the score 15-15 in the first game and I just kept playing my shots,” said the 23-year-old Indian after snapping Lee Chong Wei’s 21-match winning streak.
World No. 2 Lee Chong Wei, who has been in good form in recent months with three World Superseries titles and one Grand Prix Gold title to his name, said: “This is totally unexpected for me. I came here to win.
“Praneeth has improved a lot since we played in the Canada Open last year. I think he has a great future,” said the 33-year-old.
Feature image source: PTI