Everyone was talking about an all-India quarterfinal showdown. The fans got what they wanted but not in the event they had anticipated in. While a potential Saina Nehwal-PV Sindhu last-eight clash was being talked about, fans hardly expected to see a showdown between compatriots and good friends Ajay Jayaram and Anand Pawar in the men’s quarter-finals.
They know each other inside out. Maybe that’s why Pawar found it so easy to outdo his friend, becoming the second Indian male shuttler to make the semifinals of a Super Series event. The world No 53 won 21-6, 21-16 in only half-an-hour.
For Jayaram, this must be a heartbreaking loss. It was at the India Open that the 25-year-old failed to clinch an Olympic berth last year. He had lost in the second round, while Parupalli Kashyap, who needed to win two more rounds to increase his ranking, managed just that and went on to become the first Indian male shuttler to make the last-eight stage at the London Games.
Pawar and Jayaram go back a long way, since their training days at the Prakash Padukone academy. Today Pawar, the older one, practises with his father in Mumbai while Jayaram trains with former England national coach Tom John in Bangalore. However, every time the world No 30 is in Mumbai, they make it a point to spar.
“Ajay and I have been playing each since junior tournaments. So I know his game and he knows mine, but today probably he wasn’t playing at his best. He was under pressure,” Pawar says after his victory at the Siri Fort. In the previous round, Pawar had ousted third-seeded Hu Yun of Hong Kong.
The two friends had gone into the match with Jayaram 2-1 ahead in the head to head record. The scores are now settled.
Sindhu started on an aggressive note. Unlike in the past two rounds, her body language was completely different. She wanted to conquer. And conquer she did. Bolstered by the crowd, the 17-year-old made her second Super Series semifinals, beating Japan’s world No 46 and the Saina Nehwal-slayer Yui Hashimoto 21-16, 21-16. Having recently lost to Hashimoto in the Swiss Open, was she apprehensive about playing her in the quarters? “Normally Japanese players play long rallies but I won most of them today,” the world No. 15 said.