The Indian men's badminton team got off to a flyer in the Thomas Cup with experienced players Kidambi Srikanth and Sai Praneeth leading the way. The Indians had a perfect day with a resounding 5-0 win over the Netherlands.
The tie belonged to Sai Praneeth as he ended his losing streak to emerge victorious over Robin Mesman 21-4, 21-12. Sai Praneeth's win will lift the confidence of the entire Indian team as they look to win their maiden medal in the Thomas Cup.
Speaking to journalists and the BWF after his match, Sai Praneeth appeared relieved to end his losing streak. He said:
"It feels good as it's been a long time since I won a match. It is good to win and get some confidence before the next match."
Sai Praneeth opined that India would be well on course to win their maiden Thomas Cup medal. He hoped that the team would continue their good run by winning their matches against Tahiti and China.
"We have a good team, we have good players and I feel we have a good chance of winning. Half of the team played in the Sudirman Cup before the Thomas Cup and we have come here with a lot of confidence. This is the best chance to do something good. We have a good combination of young and experienced players."
Sai Praneeth throws weight behind fans
Sai Praneeth said the atmosphere at the Thomas Cup was good. For the first time in badminton, fans are being allowed into the arena. Sunday saw a lot of Indian fans cheering for both the men's and the women's teams.
Speaking about the courts and the fans, Sai Praneeth said the courts are a bit slow. However, he threw his weight behind the fans and said they give extra motivation to the player.
"The atmosphere is good. It was good to see the crowd being allowed in after a long time. It feels good to see Indian fans as it has been a long time since we had a crowd. Fans do give a 10% boost for a player. I hope they come and cheer for us everyday."
Sai Praneeth's compatriot Kidambi Srikanth started on a winning note, beating Joran Kweekel 21-12, 21-14.
After his win, Srikanth said he was happy to start off on a high and said a handy lead in the first game helped him carve a win. He explained:
'Frankly, I'm very happy with the way it went. I started off well in the first set and had a good lead. After the 11-point break, even though he (Joran) won three to four points on the trot, the lead gave me time to think and do things differently."
Srikanth said the turning point of his match was the trust he had in himself to play his natural game. He said:
"In the second game, at 14-all, I felt I was making too many mistakes. I told myself to cut down on mistakes and trust my attacking game."