It was a disastrous start for B Sai Praneeth when the veteran Indian went down without a fight against a lower-ranking player from Israel.
World number 15 Sai Praneeth was expected to overtake Misha Zilberman, but the veteran Israeli player scored an angry 21:17, 21:15 win over the unusual Indian.
The opening game of the men’s singles group D was won by the number 47 in the world, Misha Zilberman, with a fearless badminton display lasting 42 minutes. This was their second meeting in 2021, with the first taking place in Round 32, at the 2021 Swiss Open, where Sai Praneeth defeated Misha.
The shocking defeat almost ended Sai Praneeth’s next-round progression as he had to lead the group to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition.
1. A lack of match practice for Sai Praneeth has rusted it
Due to the rampant COVID-19 pandemic, Sai Praneeth did not have enough match practice before the major event. It was revealed when the 28-year-old Shuttler played his first game at the Tokyo Olympics. Much was expected of India’s only participant in this year’s competition, but Sai Praneeth plunged to a straight game loss.
Compared to other countries, the Indians did not get a tournament in their domestic season in the last few months. Sai Praneeth played so many matches against his sparring partners in training, but he hadn’t experienced the feeling of the real tournament atmosphere for a long time.
2. Nervous on Olympic debut
Since Sai Praneeth was making his Olympics debut, he was nervous and unable to play freely. His natural, free-flowing game was missing as he got carried away by the pressures of the games. The confident self-confidence that he exudes at other tournaments was lacking in his kitten in Tokyo.
Confidence played a big role when Sai Praneeth won the bronze medal at the 2019 World Cup in Basel. He tried to fight the nervousness but never got going at any point in the game. Former Singapore Open winner Sai Praneeth looked disgruntled and made some key line judging mistakes that didn’t help his cause.
3. Misha’s aggressiveness underpins Sai Praneeth
Before the match, Misha was the underdog, with Sai Praneeth being the favorite to win. However, the large Israeli shuttle turned the tables on its higher-ranking opponent and caused the competition’s first surprise on the opening day of the event.
The main reason for Sai Praneeth’s defeat was that he was overwhelmed by Misha’s aggressiveness. Misha, who is trained by his mother Svetlana, was aggressive from the start and didn’t let Sai Praneeth get into the match.
Misha, who competed for Israel in the London Olympics in 2012 and Rio 2016 and represented Israel in the 2015 and 2019 European Games, stunned Sai with his inspiring performance.
Former number 39 in the world has produced a brilliant game by mixing caution with aggression to perfection. Misha’s powerful punches and deceptive dropshots proved too hot for Sai Praneeth to handle.
Sai Praneeth had a chance to level the score by taking game two, but Misha didn’t take his foot off the pedal. Sai Praneeth led the second game 7-3, but Misha recovered to 15-8 before finishing the game at 21-15.
Sai Praneeth will face Mark Caljouw from Denmark in the group’s second league game. Sai Praneeth has to win it in straight games and hope other results will fall in his favor to make the cut for the KOs.
Live results: Satwiksairaj, Chirag Shetty win 21-16, 16-21, 27-25: scores, updates & game comments