Tokyo Olympics: Sai Praneeth faces upset by Israel's Misha Zilberman, knocked out

Misha Zilberman defeated Sai Praneeth 21-17, 21-15 in the Group D match at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 2.

Sai Praneeth lost his first group D match against Zilberman, Image credit: Twitter

India shuttler Sai Praneeth on Saturday lost his group stage match against Israel’s Misha Zilberman at the Tokyo Olympics. Zilberman defeated Praneeth 21-17, 21-15 in the Group D match at the Musashino Forest Plaza Court 2.

Prior to the match, Misha was the underdog, with Sai Praneeth being the favorite. However, the tall Israeli shuttler turned the tables on his opponent to create the first upset of the competition on the first day of the event. The main reason for Sai Praneeth’s defeat could perhaps be Misha’s aggressiveness. Misha, who is coached by his mother Svetlana, was aggressive from the word go and didn’t let Sai Praneeth settle into the match.

The first game was a close affair. It was an incredible turnaround from Zilberman in the first game. He turned things around from 11-13 to 20-14 with few inch-perfect smashes. Zilberman won 9 of the last 10 points to bring up game points.

Initially, one game point was saved by Praneeth with the Israeli unclear about the shuttle landing in or out. Another point was saved with Praneeth smashing the shuttle into the corner. Praneeth tried to outfox Zilberman but the Israeli player stood firm to take the first game 21-17.

A similar story unfolded in the second set where Zilberman upped his game a notch. Praneeth seemed to be struggling with the conditions more than anything else. The drift making a difference and the pumped-up Zilberman was capitalizing with some great shots. Praneeth was struggling with his shots and reading of the shuttle. Just like the first game, Zilberman went on to take the second game, and as a result, he won the match, without breaking a sweat.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Praneeth did not get sufficient match practice prior to the big event. It was clearly shown when the 28-year-old shuttler was playing his first match at the Tokyo Olympics. Much was expected from India’s only entrant in this year’s competition but Praneeth crashed to a straight-game defeat. During practice, Sai Praneeth played many matches against his sparring partners but he had not experienced the feeling of the real tournament atmosphere for quite some time until today.

Sportslumo Desk

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