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India owe it to women

other Updated: Oct 13, 2010 00:48 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

Women power ensured that Indian shuttlers would register their best Games performance in over two decades after Saina Nehwal and the doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa sailed into the final on Tuesday.

After the two men's singles players faltered at the semifinal hurdle, Jwala and Ashwini, and then Saina, had the capacity crowd at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on their feet with a display of attacking badminton.

Jwala and Ashwini came back from a game down to beat Australian veterans He Tian Tang and Kate Wilson-Smith 12-21, 21-13, 21-11 in the doubles semifinal, while top seed Saina packed off third seed Susan Eglestaff of Scotland 21-10, 21-17 in 33 minutes.

Saina will now face second seed Wong Mew Choo of Malaysia in her quest to become the first Indian woman to win a Commonwealth gold.

Jwala and Ashwini have already carved their names in the record book for being the first doubles combination from the country to win a CWG medal, and will face top seed Sari Shinta Mulia and Lei Yao of Singapore.

Only Prakash Padukone (1978) and Syed Modi (1982) have won gold in men's singles and the best performance by a woman was Aparna Popat's silver at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

India had then won two silver and two bronze.

India are set to surpass that performance with the hosts already winning silver in the mixed team championship and an assured bronze in men's singles where Chetan Anand and P Kashyap will meet in the play-off on Wednesday.

But the women, who will be in action on Thursday, were the toast of the venue.

Saina, who had bulldozed past opponents in the earlier rounds, met with some resistance from last edition's bronze medalist, Susan, but the Indian never looked under pressure.

The world number 3 was content to play the waiting game and as the shuttle sailed over the baseline for the one last time, the entire complex exploded.

There was heartbreak in the men's singles with both Chetan and Kashyap going down in contrasting styles.

While Chetan was outplayed by top seed and world number 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, 21-11, 21-12, Kashyap went down to second seed Rajiv Ouseph of England, 19-21, 21-12, 21-18 in one hour and three minutes.

World number 32 Kashyap, who had upset 2002 gold medallist Mohammad Hafiz Hashim in the quarterfinals earlier, began from where he ended on Monday but seemed to have been baulked down by the load of expectations.