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Badminton at National Games: Sai Praneeth defeats HS Prannoy as Telangana ambush Kerala to win team gold | Badminton news

SURAT: Former World Championship Bronze Medalist B Sai Praneeth showed nerves of steel to outsmart in-form HS Prannoy in a thrilling three-setter as Telangana defeated Kerala 3-0 to win the coveted mixed team badminton gold at the National Games here on Monday.
Tokyo Olympic Olympian Praneeth, who has been on a dip in form for over a year now, finally had something to cheer about as he dug deep into his reservoir to fend off Kerala’s top shuttle Prannoy 18-21 21-16 22-20 to give Telangana a 2-0 lead.
His win came on the heels of another brilliant show from the husband-and-wife duo of B Sumeeth Reddy and N Sikki Reddy, who defeated the youthful pair of MR Arjun and Treesa Jolly 21-15 14-21 21-14 in a exciting battle.
In women’s singles, Samiya Farooqui defeated TR Gowrikrishna 21-5 21-12 to seal the win for Telangana.
Telangana’s decision to field the veteran Sumeeth and Sikki in the opening mixed doubles match for Vishnuvardhan Gold and Gayatri Gopichand, who had lost to Maharashtra, paid off as they put the team ahead.
“We just gave the coach the opportunity to try us out,” said Sumeeth, even though they had last played together in the 2021 Thailand Open.
The pair rumbled at the start as the speedy Arjun and Treesa jumped to an early 5-2 lead.
“We played after a long time. We don’t even practice together because we often get into fights. It took some time to get into a rhythm. But once we found our groove, we got into a good rhythm,” said a laughing sikki.
However, the Kerala pair fought back to win the second game, with Arjun sending powerful smashes from the back line and Treesa being efficient at the net.
The third game went close to 12-all before a change of strategy did the trick for Telangana.
“I think the turning point was when I went for variations in my serve and didn’t give them length,” explained Sikki.
The next match was pivotal with Prannoy, who is currently ranked 15th in the world and is on to a dream season, starting as the favorite against Praneeth, whose BWF world ranking has fallen to 40 due to his poor form.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game, especially as we know each other’s game because we often train together. But gradually I found my strides,” said Praneeth, the 2017 Singapore Open champion.
The first game was played fiercely. A hesitant Praneeth made a few casual errors while Prannoy looked good with his all-round play. They went neck-and-neck until 18-18 before Prannoy took it with some well-measured shots.
Praneeth was in full swing in the second game, with his repertoire of shots that caught Prannoy on the wrong foot. He led 13-7 and held the tie to make it 1-1.
In the third game, Praneeth built a healthy 13-7 lead before Prannoy scrambled his way back to make it 18-18.
“I was suddenly blank when Prannoy started playing a fast game. Since the shuttle also came off slowly, I was little taken back. But luckily I kept my nerves under control and got this crucial win. It will boost my morale,” said Praneeth.

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