For over a decade, the women's singles event in the Senior National Badminton Championship has always had an overwhelming favourite and the individual has lived up to the top billing.
Aparna Popat has retired and with the top two players ---Saina Nehwal and Aditi Mutatkar withdrawing, the 73rd edition here is considered the most open competition in the last few years. On Sunday, junior national runner-up P.C. Thulasi of Kerala opened up the tournament further when she upset top seed Neha Pandit with a clinical display, 22-20, 21-19 to reach the pre quarterfinals on Sunday.
Railway's Sonal More then thrashed sixth seed V. Ruth Misha of Karnataka 21-11, 21-8 while local girl Tripti Lavania continued her march with a 21-12, 16-21, 21-19 win over 15th seed Bibari Basumatari of Assam. She will now face Thulasi for a berth in the quarterfinals.
In the men's section, the top four seeds moved into the fourth round without much ado. The only seeded player to bite the dust was 15th seed Nikhil Kanetkar. The Indian Oil employee went down 21-11, 21-19 against T Dinesh of Railways.
In the morning session, 18-year-old Thulasi showed that she had improved a lot since the last Nationals, when she blended consistency with right shot selection to pack off her more fancied opponent in just 32 minutes.
The Thrissur girl went into the tie with a simple approach -- keep the shuttle in play and use the flat tosses to catch Neha on the wrong foot. The strategy worked wonders as the top seed began to feel the pressure of finishing the points early and made quite a few unforced errors at the net.
Having won the first game, Thulasi began to call the shots more often in the second and it was only when she had four match points in her bag that she showed some nerves. She made three consecutive unforced errors to allow her opponent to claw back but Neha could not take advantage of the situation, hitting a drive in the net to crash out.
"I was desperate to finish off the match and that is why I made those mistakes," said Thulasi, who will miss the upcoming Dutch and German junior events due to her 12th standard exam.