There is no doubting the fact that Sai Praneeth is a different player this year and he proved it once again in the first round of the Fuzhou China Open 2019 on Wednesday. A slow start made it difficult for him to counter the strokes of former World Championships bronze medallist Tommy Sugiarto and he conceded the first game 15-21.
However, Sai did not let that bother him at all. He had beaten the veteran Indonesian in their last two meetings and he believed he could do it again.
In the second and third games, Sai emerged a different player, one that covered every inch of the court, forcing his opponent into errors. Using his speed and aggression to perfection, the 2019 World Championships bronze medallist won the next two games with relative ease.
The 15-21, 21-12, 21-10 victory set up a second-round showdown with the fourth seed Anders Antonsen. The Dane has been in scintillating form at this Super 750 tournament, evidenced by his commanding 21-12, 21-7 victory over Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen.
The youngster has been doing very well on the Tour this year and even reached the final of the World Championships. It inspired a series of deep runs from Antonsen as he made it to the semi-finals of the Super 1000 China Open and the quarter-finals of the Denmark Open and French Open.
Sai Praneeth will have quite a task on his hands given how good Antonsen has been feeling on the court of late, despite the head-to-head between the two being tied at 1-1.
That said, this has been Sai's career-best year and he has had quite a few big wins. If anything, he will leave it all out on the court in a bid to reach the last-eight stage at the Fuzhou China Open.
Prediction: Sai Praneeth in three games
Here is all you need to know about Fuzhou China Open 2019
Tournament: Fuzhou China Open 2019
Category: BWF Super 750
Location: Fuzhou, China
Venue: Haixia Olympics Sports Center
Prize Money: US$700,000
Schedule: Sai Praneeth vs (4) Anders Antonsen expected to be at approx 12 noon IST on November 7, 2019
Where to watch the matches in India?
Live telecast of the tournament will be available on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD from November 8.
You can also follow the proceedings on live score here.