They had wasted four match points. The scoreboard reading 18-20 in India’s favour, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa knew how important it was to finish off the match.
As Ashwini’s carefully placed crosscourt shot left the opponents flummoxed, the India squad, cheering from the stands, started to shout as if there was no tomorrow. After all, it’s not everyday that you make the semifinals of the Uber Cup, a first for the country in the prestigious team event.
“We were desperate to finish off the tie in three matches,” gushed Jwala after the pair defeated Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari 21-18, 21-18 on Thursday.
“We felt the pressure because Indonesia’s doubles teams are traditionally strong. They can depend on the third singles and second doubles, which realistically, we can’t.”
“(PV) Sindhu’s match was scary. We were happy that she pulled through which gave us confidence,” piped in Ashwini, standing in the Siri Fort mixed zone.
Scare for hosts
Scary? Well, after Saina Nehwal gave India the lead by defeating Lindaweni Fanetri 21-17, 21-10, it was Sindhu’s turn to take the stage. What started off as an easy tie, left every fan in the stadium gasping for breath. The lanky world No 11 thrashed Bellaetrix Manuputty 21-16 in the first game but then everything went wrong.
Sindhu made a string of unforced errors, lost her focus and began to lose her cool on court.
Her body language seemed to change after losing the second game 10-21. Though she began the final game aggressively, it was the thrilling end which had every fan groaning and then cheering.
Sindhu and Manuputty were both tired and when the score read 15-15, everything boiled down to the survival of the fittest. An unforced error gave the Indonesian her first match point but Sindhu managed to save it. Then came another at 20-21. Again, Sindhu rose to the occasion.
By then, both were exhausted. It was sheer willpower which kept them going.
Finally, the tide seemed to turn in India’s favour, giving Sindhu her first match point. She needed two more to emerge victorious from the tense situation. As the final game read 25-23, giving India a 2-0 lead, the thought of a possible heartbreak had changed to celebration.
A new high
This is the first time India have made the semis of the Uber Cup. After failing to qualify for the finals in the last edition, they take on Japan on Friday, a bid to make their maiden summit clash of the team tournament.
So, is there some time to celebrate or is it back to the drawing board already? “Let’s enjoy this moment. When the time comes, we will think of Japan,” said Jwala holding the Tricolour. They definitely deserve some moments to celebrate this historic first.