For years, the story of Indian doubles has remained quite uninspiring with no one advancing beyond the preliminary rounds in major competitions. All that started to change last year when the Indians won three Grand Prix crowns in October, with Jwala Gutta and V. Diju bagging two mixed doubles titles.
The three-time national champions have never looked back ever since and, on Saturday, they proved that their progress was no fluke as they thrashed Malaysia's Jien Guo Ong and Sook Chin Chong 21-11, 21-12 in just 20 minutes to reach the final of the $120,000 Yonex Sunrise India Open badminton tournament.
The women's doubles combination of Jwala and Shruti Kurian was, however, completely outdone by Indonesia's Vita Marissa and Nadya Melati 21-17, 21-9.
In the men's singles, second seed Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia was in his element, toying with the hapless Tommy Sugiarto for a 21-13, 21-11 victory, while 10th seed Muhammad Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia ended the giant-killing run of China's Chen Long 21-18, 19-21, 21-15 to reach the final.
The women's singles final will see top seed Pi Hongyan of France take on Malaysia's Julia Pie Wong. Hongyan needed just 29 minutes to pack off Yu Hirayama of Japan 21-7, 21-14, while Wong overcame the challenge of Beiwen Zhang (Singapore) 19-21, 21-13, 21-15.
Despite a star-studded singles line-up, the spectators thronged the women's and mixed doubles matches. The women's pair took the court first but the spectators at the Gachibowli stadium were in for a big disappointment as the local girls — Jwala and Shurti — never looked like making a match of it, preferring to blame each other for the lapses.
The story continued even after the match with Jwala telling reporters that, "It seemed like my partner was not warmed up well for the tie and the opponents took advantage of that."
Though both shuttlers evaded questions about their future, the writing is on the wall — that the national champions are heading for a split.
A few hours later, Jwala was in her element and complemented Diju with some superb court coverage. There was not a moment in the match when the world number 14 pair looked under pressure. They will now face the third-seeded pair of Flandy Limpele and Vita Marissa of Indonesia.