“Both in the men’s and women’s teams have depth in singles,” national coach, Pullela Gopichand, had said before leaving for Thailand.
On Monday, the coach stood vindicated as the women beat Hong Kong 3-2 in the Asian Zone qualifiers for the Uber Cup. It was a giant leap towards earning their maiden berth in the main event at Narkornratchasima, Thailand. The men scripted a 5-0 win as they whitewashed Sri Lanka to advance.
The joy got doubled for the women as Saina Nehwal beat world No. 8 Zhou Mi for the first time in her career. Ranked a rung higher, Saina got past Zhou 14-21, 21-10, 23-21. The Indian had lost on their previous five meetings.
“I moved well and matched her excellent flicks and net shots. In the second and third game, I made her run around, which forced her to play aggressively and commit errors,” said Saina.
Gopichand was happy with the team’s performance. “Everyone played well. It was a crucial game for Saina since she was facing Zhou.” Amidst the euphoria, the coach sounded a warning. “It’s going to be equally difficult for the girls when they face Japan on Tuesday.”
After Saina’s feat, Hong Kong pulled one back when Yip Pui Yin beat Sayali Gokhale 21-13, 21-11. Trupti Murgunde put India ahead when she defeated Chan Tsz Ka 21-18, 21-16. In doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa saw off Zhou Mi and Tse Ying Suet 21-13, 21-16.
In the fifth match, Aparna Balan and Shruti Kurian fell to Chau Hoi Wah and Chan Tsz Ka 9-21, 13-21, but it didn’t have a bearing on the result.
In Thomas Cup, Chetan Anand gave a headstart to the men’s campaign as he outlasted Niluka Karunaratne 21-18, 19-21, 21-17. P. Kashyap, followed suit and thrashed Dinuka Karunaratne 21-11, 21-10 in 19 minutes to help India go 2-0 up. Later, RMV Gurusaidutt wound up proceedings by beating Rajitha Dahanayake 21-13, 21-9.
In doubles, Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar beat Karunaratne Niluka and Karunaratne Diluka 21-14, 18-21, 21-12, while V Diju and Akshay Dewalkar beat Chanaka Hasitha and Dahanayake Rajitha 21-11, 21-8.