The opening day of any national championship is normally a story of one-sided matches with out-of-court happenings taking centre-stage. The start to the 74th Senior National Badminton Championship here on Wednesday was no different with Jwala Gutta alleging that the organisers and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) were not giving doubles players their due.
The organisers had initially planned to felicitate only Saina Nehwal for her achievements last year by handing over the keys of a swank car to the Indonesia Open champion. But Jwala’s outburst on Tuesday night and the passive support from some other doubles players was enough for the Assam Badminton Association (ABA) to hurriedly add the mixed doubles pair’s (Jwala and V. Diju) name to the list. The duo was given a purse of Rs one lakh each.
Jwala, however, did not turn up for the ceremony and Diju also received her cheque. ABA secretary Omar Rashid played down the issue but confirmed that the decision to felicitate Jwala and Diju came was an afterthought. “Ideally, it’s our prerogative to decide whom we should felicitate. But since they made an issue, we decided to honour their sentiments.”
On court, there was little action with the seeds having an off day due to first-round byes. Among the few good players in action on Wednesday, Olympian Nikhil Kanetkar of Maharashtra and Sachin Ratti of Railways broke little sweat on way to the next round.
The only category that saw a close contest was mixed doubles. Fourth seed Pranav Chopra (Air India) and Maharashtra’s Prajakta Sawant warded off the challenge from qualifiers Alwyn Francis and P. Jyotsna 21-18, 21-9. Jwala and Diju strolled through their opening round tie with an easy win over Saurabh Aggarwal and Abhilasha Tewari.