India’s Prem Kumar Ale pulled off the biggest shock of the day when he ousted top seed from Germany Thomas Wandschneider in three games to progress into the quarter-finals of the BWF Para Badminton World Championships 2019 here on Friday.
Ale, who was a semi-finalist at the Uganda 2019 International, made a brilliant comeback after losing the first game 18-21 to the former bronze medallist and World no. 2 in men's singles wheelchair WH1 event. Ale took the next two games to close it down at 18-21, 21-15, 21-18 for the biggest win of his career.
Being an ex-Army man, Ale rode on his impeccable fitness and an all-round game, where he used all the corners to pick up points; the seven consecutive points in the third game was one of the highlights.
Speaking to Paralympic Committee of India, Ale said: “This is the happiest moment of my career. I knew Thomas is a strong player so I tried not to make mistakes and give him points. The plan worked.
“My target is to win a gold at this World Championships and then at the Paralympics.”
Ale next faces China's Yang Tong on Saturday.
India coach Gaurav Khanna also praised his ward’s good show and added: “As the Wheelchair events are one of the toughest, it’s an outstanding show from Prem to beat the top seed. His fitness and patience are his strong points. And his positive approach even in tough situation is what stands out.
“I have been always emphasising to have strong players in wheelchair categories considering India has winners in Standing categories. I hope our wait for a wheelchair star has ended now,” he added.
However, Wandschneider along with Mi Young-Chin avenged his loss defeating Ale and Abu Hubaida 21-11, 21-14 in the men’s doubles WH 1-2 competition.
In other events, World no. 1 Pramod Bhagat led the charge in men’s singles SL3 , winning his pre-quarter-finals against China’s Chen Xiaoyu 21-15, 21-12 in just 29 minutes. Later, third seed Manoj Sarkar and Umesh Vikram Kumar joined Bhagat in the quarter-finals winning their respective matches.
“It was a good match. I am better adapted to the conditions now. The courts are on the slower side so I was trying to play more rallies and attacking tosses,” Bhagat said.
Meanwhile, third seed Sukant Kadam also had another comfortable day in SL4 event as he needed just 19 minutes to win his pre-quarters over New Zealand’s Corrie Keith Robinson 21-8, 21-11, after third seed Krishna Nagar overcame his doubles partner Raja Magotra with a 21-9, 21-17 scoreline in men’s singles SS6.
Tarun Dhillon later joined Kadam in SL4 quarterfinals.
India's women stars Parul Parmer and Manasi Joshi, in SL3, and promising Palak Kohli (SU5) were scheduled to play their pre-quarters matches later in the day.
Parmer alongwith Raj Kumar had already progressed into the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 quarters after defeating Swede-Norwegian pair of Rickard Nilsson and Helle Sofie Sagoy 21-18, 21-11.
In other doubles matches, some of the pairs were still finishing their group matches - top seeded Indian duo of Raj Kumar and Rakesh Pandey won their second match to top Group A of men’s doubles SU 5, as did third seeds Krishna Nagar and Raja Magotra in SS 6.
As many as 22 events (14 Paralympic and eight non-Paralympic) are contested at this Championships, whose finals will be played on Sunday.