Indian women shuttlers assured of bronze in Asian Games  
Published on 20/09/2014     Source : Deccan Herald

After Saina and Sindhu registered hard-fought victories in the first two singles, scratch combination of Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa finally earned India the medal after they clinched the final women's doubles match.

World No. 7 Saina gave the team a fine start though after a tough 67-minute struggle against Thai no. 1 and 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon which was capitalised upon by Sindhu, who put her team 2-0 in front in the best-of-five rubber by defeating Porntip Buranaprasertsuk.

But the weakness in India's doubles play and third singles came to the fore as the Thais fought themselves back into recokoning by drawing level and forced the decider.

The Thais won the third singles, when Ongbamrungphan Busanan easily defeated India's P C Thulasi, and then clinched the first doubles too to draw level at 2-2.

It was then left to Sindhu and Ashwini, who won the deciding rubber in a tense match against Sapsiree Taerattanchai and Sasalee Thoungthongkam to pilot India into the last four stage after a four hour and 15 minute battle.

India will meet South Korea tomorrow in the semis after the hosts defeated Chinese Taipei in another quarter final tie. China and Japan will meet in the other semis.

India's last medal of any hue in badminton had come in 1986 when the men's team claimed bronze. Ever since badminton made its debut in the Asiad in 1966, India have managed just seven bronze medals with Syed Modi being the only singles medallist in 1982.

However, the men's team was outplayed by Korea 0-3. K Srikanth and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Parupalli Kashyap went down in contrasting fashions while the doubles team of Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri also failed to come good.

The Indians women's team faced tough fight from the beginning as Saina had to come from behind in all three games against her top Thai opponent Ratchanok to carve out a 21-15 17-21 21-18 triumph.

Though Saina showed good grit under pressure, it must be said the Thai girl conceded negative points at crucial stages in the first and third games to lose the contest.

Trailing 8-11 in the opening game, Saina struck a purple patch and led 13-11. She retained the lead right through the end of it before Ratchanok committed two errors and conceded it.

The Thai girl changed her strategy and tried to beat Saina with drops and cross court smashes wide off the Indian to hold complete sway in the second game before winning it with a drop.

Saina continued to struggle in the third game as the Thai girl ran up a 10-6 lead before Saina narrowed the gap a bit at the interval to 8-11, the last point won by the Thai after a lengthy rally with a flick to base with Saina hopelessly out of position. Saina continued to flounder and was behind 11-16 and it looked curtains for her when she made another splendid comeback to catch her rival at 17-all and then lead 18-17 when the Thai's crosscort smash went wide.

A lucky net chord gave Saina match points at 20-17 and though the Thai won back the serve she lost the point and the match by hitting a roundhouse backhand yards wide of the sideline.

Saina later told reporters that she cannot pin-point one particular reason for the turnaround. "I am happy to pull off victory in a tough match. I don't know what I did right but I think I got back my rhythm and she was tired and made errors at the end," she said.

She also said that the draft in the hall that was encountered today morning seems to have been controlled but the lighting in the hall affected the eyes when going for a shot. Asked about training under Vimal Kumar ahead of the Games and his presence on the sidelines to guide her along with chief national coach P Gopichand, Saina said she went to Bangalore mainly to improve her movements around the court which she felt had become a bit slower.

"I had trained with him (Vimal) for three weeks and felt it will be better if he's around to talk to me during the game rather than Gopi Sir who has not seen me playing for three weeks. I am happy with my movement," the London Olympic Games bronze medalist said.

Saina had switched base from Gopi Chand's academy after crashing out in the quarter finals of the last world championships in Denmark. In the second match, Sindhu proved too good for her Thai rival Porntip Buranaprasertsuk and scored a quickfire 21-15, 21-13 victory.

She led right through by five or six points to win the opening game with a sharp 'kill' at the net. The second game too went along the same lines before the lanky Sindhu, who has come into these Games after winning her second bronze medal at the World Championships, served on match point which her opponent returned over the baseline.

Sindhu told reporters soon after her match that the second world championship bronze has boosted her confidence as she had to rally from behind in two matches and win it. "It has given me a lot of confidence for playing here in my first Asian Games which is a great experience. The courts are absolutely fine," she said.

About playing doubles matches with Ashwini Ponnappa, she said they had practiced together during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. "We have played both singles and doubles in our junior age so it's no problem though the level is pretty high here," she said.

Sindhu had to play doubles with Ashwini after her regular partner Jwala Gutta pulled out after injuring her knee. Thulasi lost the third singles 12-21 14-21 without putting up too much resistance against Busanan to help the Thais stay in the rubber. The doubles combination of Pradnya Gadre and N Sikki Reddi then surrendered to Thai duo of Porntip Buranaprasertsuk and Kunchasla Voravichitchaikul 17-21, 21-18, 16-21.

The hurriedly put up combine of Sindhu and Ashwini then ensured that the handy 2-0 lead did not go waste as they registered a clinical 21-16, 21-17 win over Sapsiree and Sasalee to save the day for India.



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