Playing the mental game to perfection, India's Aditya Prakash left Iskandar Zulkarnain Bin Zainuddin gasping for breath. As a result, the Malaysian succumbed to hand Prakash a well-fought win in the semifinal of the World Junior Badminton Championships.
For Prakash, 18, the event is of great importance. "This is my first time in a big event and I am really excited about it,” he said.
Born in Mandya district of Karnataka, Prakash took to badminton in 2000 and trained under SAI coach MS Nagarjuna for six years before moving to the Prakash Padukone Academy.
"After moving to the academy, I have grown as a player," said Prakash, who won the under-13 singles title in 2003 and went on to become the under-16 doubles champion in 2006. Ranked No. 2 among juniors, Prakash also bagged three out of the five all-India ranking tournaments in 2003 and 2006.
"The quality of his play is going up by the day," said national junior coach, Sanjeev Sachdeva, about the silver medalist at the recently concluded Commonwealth Youth Games.
Prakash had participated in the Asian Badminton Championship in Kuala Lampur but crashed out in the second round.
Into his last year as a junior, Prakash is aware of his drawbacks. "I know the areas I need to work on. I have to be more responsible as from next year I will not be a junior," he said.
Prakash looked visibly happy after Monday's match. "I put up a good fight, he (Iskander) was getting tired and I took advantage of it. I kept him close to the net and sometimes made him run all over the court. He got frustrated and gave-in."
For him, a championship like this helps players to improve. "There is a lot of exposure as one gets to play alongside players from China, Korea, who are known for their fast and high intensity games."
India finish fourth
The hosts went down to Malaysia 2-3 in the play-off to finish fourth in the team event. China emerged winners beating Korea 3-1. While Saina Nehwal and Aditya Prakash won their singles matches, none of the other players could match the Malaysians in doubles.
Prajakta Sawant and Guru Sai Dutt went down to Kok Siang Teao and Kah Mun Vivian Hoo 21-8, 21-17. Hee Chun Mak and Kok Siang Teo beat Praneeth Sai and Pranav Chopra 21-14, 21-13 in the men's doubles. Sikki Reddy and Thulasi PC lost to Kah Mun Vivian Hoo and Sannatasah Binti Saniru 21-14, 13-21, and 21-9 in the women's doubles.