Badminton Asia Team C'ships: Indian Women Enter Maiden Final After Beating Japan 3-2 - Eastern Mirror
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Badminton Asia Team C’ships: Indian women enter maiden final after beating Japan 3-2

6092
By PTI Updated: Feb 17, 2024 6:22 pm
P V Sindhu
FILE – Indian badminaton player P V Sindhu

SHAH ALAM (MALAYSIA) —  India kept alive hopes of winning a first-ever gold in Badminton Asia Team Championships after the women shuttlers progressed to their maiden final with a 3-2 win over two-time former champions Japan in a thrilling semifinal here on Saturday.

The world No. 23 pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, world No. 53 Ashmita Chaliha and 17-year-old Anmol Kharb registered stunning wins in the first doubles and second and deciding singles to take India through to the summit clash.

India will face Thailand in the final on Sunday.

India had won two bronze medals in men’s team event in the 2016 and 2020 editions.

Though Japan were without their world No. 4 Akane Yamaguchi, the world No. 7 pair of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota and world No. 8 combination of Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, they were still a formidable side, making it tough for India.

Returning from a long injury layoff, Sindhu had enjoyed wins against China’s Han Yue and Hong Kong’s Lo Sin Yan Happy but she couldn’t produce her best against the left-handed Aya Ohori, going down 13-21, 20-22 in the first singles to peg India back.

Treesa and Gayatri, playing the first doubles, dished out a superlative performance to outwit world No. 6 Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida 21-17, 16-21, 22-20 in a 73-minute contest as India drew level at 1-1.

Up against former world champion Nozomi Okuhara, who is currently ranked 20, the left-handed Ashmita produced an aggressive game, using her overhead cross drops and jump smashes to good use, to record a shocking 21-17, 21-14 win to hand India a 2-1 lead.

With Tanisha Crasto suffering a niggle, Sindhu then paired up with Ashwini Ponnappa but they couldn’t get across the world No. 11 pair of Rena Miyaura and Ayako Sakuramoto, losing 14-21, 11-21 in 43 minutes.

With the five-match rubber evenly poised at 2-2, Anmol was handed the responsibility of taming world No. 29 Natsuki Nidaira, and the Indian once again lived up to the expectation, claiming a 21-14, 21-18 win in 52 minutes.

“Our girls are doing magic, they were excellent today,” former India coach Vimal Kumar, who is with the Indian team in Malaysia, told PTI.

“I will give a lot of credit to Gayatri and Treesa and also Ashmita for pulling out of the matches. It was an outstanding performance from Ashmita, she outclassed Okuhara, she raised her game to another level.

“Young girl Anmol also showed that we can depend on her going forward. When you do well in team championships, it shows they can handle pressure and I am really impressed with her. This is special moment for Indian badminton.”

Ashmita vs Nozomi

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Ashmita managed to draw out errors from Nozomi and also played some delectable backhand drives and forehand cross hits to open up a 11-9 lead after an initial battle in the opening game.

Nozomi clawed back at 12-12 but the Indian broke the run of play with a nice over-the-head drop and a backhand return and then a couple of straight smashes helped her to stay ahead.

The Indian pushed one to the back and then Nozomi hit wide as Ashmita grabbed four game points with a jump cross smash and sealed it when the Japanese’s back hand went to net.

After the change of sides, Ashmita fell 2-7 behind but she soon stepped up the pace and entered the break with a 11-9 cushion.

Ashmita’s angled returns and leap smashes created trouble for Nozomi as the Indian continued to accumulate points. Eventually, a stiff return on Nozomi’s forehand handed the Indian seven game points and she converted in the second chance.

Anmol vs Natsuki

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The Saina-like Anmol looked in control against Natsuki, using her drops and slices to lead 11-7 at the mid-game interval and then moved to 17-12. She grabbed six game points after Natsuki went wide and sealed it after winning a well-constructed rally.

In the second game, the duo was locked 6-6. Natsuki made two unforced errors and Anmol produced two precise returns at the forehand corner to be 11-9 at the break.

On resumption, the Indian moved to 15-10. However, Natsuki chipped away at the lead, making it 15-16 at one stage.

A precise return at the forehand corner helped Anmol to stay ahead. But the Japanese produced a cross court smash and with Anmol going long the scores were levelled at 17-17. However, Natsuki committed four unforced errors thereafter as Anmol sealed the match.

In the final, India will have their task cut out against Thailand, who are without world No. 13 Ratchanok Intanon and world No. 16 Pornpawee Chochuwong. Their singles will be spearheaded by world no. 17 Supanida Katethong and world no. 18 Busanan Ongbamrungphan.

Supanida has troubled Sindhu in the past but the Indian will have to pull out of her match, while Ashmita will fancy her chances against Busanan and Anmol will be expected to fight it out against world no 45 Pornpicha Choeikeewong.

Doubles remain Thailand’s strength with world No. 10 pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, and world No. 13 Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard in their ranks.

6092
By PTI Updated: Feb 17, 2024 6:22:39 pm
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