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Tokyo-bound Sai Praneeth believes he holds an advantage in his Oly debut
No men's singles player from India has ever progressed further than the quarter-final at the Olympics but the Arjuna Awardee has set his sights on ending that drought soon as he hopes to return home with a medal.
Bhamidipati Sai Praneeth, India's sole men's singles representative in Badminton at Tokyo 2020, is confident ahead of his Olympic debut as the 28-year-old shuttler believes he holds an advantage going into the showpiece event. Praneeth has maintained his World No. 15 rankings to qualify for his first-ever Olympics. No men's singles player from India has ever progressed further than the quarter-final at the Olympics but the Arjuna Awardee has set his sights on ending that drought soon as he hopes to return home with a medal.
"Nobody knows how people are playing and how everybody is practicing or in which area they are improving. It is something which is [the same for] everybody. It's a new way of playing tournaments, more so an Olympics and top players will definitely be under pressure. So I hope it will be a good thing for me," Praneeth said in a video posted by Olympics.com. "I think for them it is not easy because they don't know how they are playing. When you see [a player] in practice everything seems fine. Only when you play tournament will you know how good you are playing or how bad you are playing. I think definitely, it will have an impact and I feel this could be an advantage for me," he pointed.
Praneeth feels he is in good shape by playing in 4 tournaments this year. However, cancelled tournaments saw former World No 1 Srikanth Kidambi missing the Olympic Qualification cut but he is now helping Praneeth to prepare for his Olympic debut. "So there are few players who are practicing with me and Srikanth is also there, he is sometimes playing with me. Practice is going good and I am focusing on my fitness. I think game-wise everybody will play well and for me as long as I am fit, I think I can play my game."
"You know you are capable of winning a medal and so yes you have to train for the medal. And not just got to participate. So definitely winning a medal is the main target. If you are really capable of getting something, and if it is not happening, I think you have to try a hundred per cent till the end. That is what I believe," Sai added. The 2019 World Championship medallist understands what he needs to do to perform well at the upcoming Olympics.
"Sometimes a good win gives you a lot of confidence that's what happened in WC in 2019. Sometimes a lack of confidence is also the main point for me. Because however well you play or fit you are sometimes because of confidence issues you may mess up the game." Talking about his first affair with Badminton in Olympics, Praneeth said: "The 2008 Olympics in Beijing was the first time I watched the men's singles final between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. I will never forget that game that was the best game played by Lin Dan. He was totally in control."
Earlier on Monday, BWF announced the 87 male and 86 female players who will compete at Tokyo 2020 as a total of 50 NOCs from five continents will be represented in the competition, which begins on July 24 at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.
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