With the renowned Gopichand Badminton Academy situated in Hyderabad, the City of Nizams has turned into the City of Badminton superstars in the last decade or so. Along with big names like Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, and Parupalli Kashyap, Sai Praneeth is yet another name that has come through the academy in the last few years.
He may not have been as popular as his famous compatriots, but Sai continues to break stereotypes nonetheless. Here is the inspiring story of the shuttler…
Sai Praneeth Bhamidipati
Date of Birth
10 August 1992
Andhra Pradesh, India
5 ft 9 in
15 (as of 10th September 2019)
Sai Praneeth Biography
Sai Praneeth was born on Born on 10th August 1992 in Hyderabad. Praneeth’s aunt, Kasturi Devi, was also a shuttler but failed to make it big due to injuries. But her badminton background was inspiring enough for young Sai Praneeth to pick up the racket at an early age.
And young Sai gave it all for the love of sports since childhood. He used to travel 18 kilometres and train for four hours every day – all that while attending school! After exceptional performances at U-13 and U-16 tournaments, Sai became one of the few first pupils of Pullela Gopichand. In fact, Sai, along with Parupalli Kashyap, were the first few players to train at the Gopichand Badminton academy after it was opened in 2008.
Praneeth proved that his efforts and training of years were all worth it with the first taste of success at BWF World Junior Championship. The youngster made it to the semi-finals where he lost to current World No. 6 Viktor Axelsen. But Praneeth won the bronze medal which was a sign of things to come.
In the same year, the youngster had a great outing at the famous Iran Fajr International tournament, winning both singles’ and doubles’ event. Along with Pranav Chopra, he defeated the Iranian pair of Ali Shahhosseini and Mohammadreza Kheradmandi.
Praneeth continued his rise with performances in various tournaments. He won the 2012 Bahrain International Tournament after defeating Niluka Karunaratne of Sri Lanka in three sets. In the same year, he finished runner-up at the Tata Open India International as his compatriot R. M. V. Gurusaidutt defeated him in straight sets.
But without a doubt, the shuttler’s most significant break came during the 2013 Indonesia Open. Praneeth defeated hometown hero and 2004 Olympic Gold medallist Taufik Hidayat 15-21, 21-12, 21-17 to ruin his farewell tournament.
Injuries and Comeback
Sai Praneeth has been known for abundant talent and skilled game-play. But the pressure of performing and untimely injuries have held him back from reaching the top. His performances started to suffer from the shuttler failing to hold on to longer rallies during the games. He suffered a foot injury towards the end of the 2014 but still decided to participate in the 2015 Senior National Badminton Championship. It only made matters worse for Sai as he had to take a break for months to completely recover from the injury.
But a player who had the habit of facing adversities from very early in his career, Sai Praneeth made a great comeback from the injury as well. 2015 proved to be an excellent year for Sai as he won three titles. In the 2015 Sri Lanka International Challenge, Sai defeated Sameer Verma in the final to announce his return from the injury. The same form continued with titles at the Lagos International and Bangladesh Open International Badminton Challenge.
2016 was ever more fruitful for the Hyderabad-born player with some exceptional results and silverware to show for. After being promoted from the qualifiers for 2016 All England Super Series Premier, Sai shocked the world by beating Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, three-time Olympic silver medallist in straight sets in the very first round.
Sai was also part of the Indian team for the 2016 Badminton Asia Team Championships. Although Praneeth did not play any game throughout the tournament, thanks to Indian team’s performance, he finished with the bronze medal as well.
The shuttler had also started making waves at bigger stages by now and won his first-ever BWF Grand Prix, 2016 Canada Open. He defeated Lee Hyun-il in straight sets.
Success, success and more success
Sai Praneeth’s world ranking was in the 30s throughout 2016, proving his consistency against some of the biggest superstars. He picked up in 2017 from where he left off and made it to the final of 2017 Syed Modi International. But in his first BWF Grand Prix Gold final, Sai had to settle for the silver medal as Sameer Verma defeated him in straight sets.
Sai’s first-ever BWF Superseries title soon followed as he defeated Srikanth Kidambi in the final of the 2017 Singapore Open. Despite losing the first set in the final, Sai came back stronger to win the gold against his countryman.
Praneeth also bagged his first gold at the BWF Grand Prix Gold at the 2017 Thailand Open. He defeated Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie, currently ranked 4th, 17-21, 21-18, 21-19 in yet another come from behind victory!
After starting 2017 ranked 36th, Sai finished the year on 16th – A leap of 20!
History Maker: Sai Praneeth
Sai reached his career-best rank, 12, in March 2018 thanks to a successful 2017. But since the start of 2019, despite a little drop in his rankings, the shuttler has been in fine form.
At the BWF World Tour 2019 Swiss Open, Sai made it to the final in Super 300 level. He lost the final to Shi Yuqi of China despite winning the first set and had to return with the silver medal.
But that was soon to be forgotten as he delivered the best medal of his career so far just a few days ago. At the 2019 BWF World Championship in Switzerland, Sai won the bronze medal and became the first Indian male badminton player to win the bronze after Prakash Padukon’s medal in 1983 – The wait of 36 years!
The 27-year old was the 16th seed for the Championship, but that hardly mattered as he defeated sixth seed A S Ginting in the third round and fourth seed J Christie in the fourth round – both in straight sets.
In fact, Sai had not dropped a single set on his way to the semi-final, winning all four games in straight sets. But World No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan was too hot to handle for the Indian as he lost the semi-final 13-21, 8-21. Nonetheless, with the bronze medal, Sai Praneeth created history, achieving something no Indian male shuttler managed to do in the last 36 years.
There is a long way to go before the 2020 Olympics and Sai, currently ranked 19th BWF World rankings, will have an uphill task against world’s finest players in Tokyo. But there is no reason why Sai, with his talent and current red-hot form, cannot repeat the heroics of World Championship next year. Keep an eye on him, people; there is still a lot to come from this guy!
Stats: Sai Praneeth