Badminton Nationals: PV Sindhu takes on Saina Nehwal in blockbuster finale
India’s top two shuttle queens, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal set up a blockbuster summit showdown by winning their respective semi-finals in contrasting fashion at the Yonex-Sunrise 83rd Senior National Badminton Championships 2018-19.
While top seed PV Sindhu staved off a gutsy fightback from Assam’s wonderkid Ashmita Chaliha to secure a 21-10, 22-20 win, defending champion Saina Nehwal had it easier against Vaishnavi Bhale whom she beat 21-15, 21-14.
The summit clash will see the two taking on each other in a rematch of the enthralling final that they played in the last edition. Saina, winner of the Nationals in 2006-07 and 2018, will aim for her fourth title and Sindhu will try to lay her hands on the coveted trophy after earlier triumphs in 2011 and 2013.
The men’s singles final will be a repeat of the 2017 final between two-time champion Sourabh Verma and Asian junior champion Lakshya Sen. Verma, who earlier knocked out the second seed Sai Praneeth in the quarter-finals, did not put a foot wrong in his 21-14, 21-17 demolition of Mumbai shuttler Kaushal Dharmamer.
Sen came back from a deficit in the second game to end the run of 2012 champion and third seed Parupalli Kashyap 21-15, 21-16.
It was the Sindhu vs Chaliha semi-final match that grabbed everybody’s attention for the sheer resilience shown by the 19-year-old Assamese youngster. The two-time champion had to claw her way back from 16-19 down in the second game and needed two match points to douse the challenge of the spirited fourth seed Chaliha.
The teenager had already announced her arrival last year with BWF titles at the Dubai International Challenge and the Tata Open. On Day 4 of the Senior Nationals, she gave yet another display of her immense talent when she steadied her nerves and got back into contention from an 8-13 deficit in the second game.
Egged on by the motley crowd, the fearless girl drew level at 13-13 and jumped into a 17-14 lead against the Rio Olympic silver medallist before advancing to 19-16. That’s where Sindhu’s vast experience came in handy and she evened the score at 19-19 to have a match point at 20-19.
But the resilient Ashmita was not done yet and she saved the first match point only to see her World No. 6 opponent wrap it up on her second in 38 minutes.
Nehwal wasn’t troubled by Nagpur girl Bhale as much. The closest that the 22-year-old came to Saina was when she fought back from 2-5 down in the second game to trail by a solitary point at 5-6.
World Junior Championships bronze medallist Sen made a brilliant start against Kashyap in a battle of generations, racing ahead to 11-3. In the second game, it was the 32-year-old who enjoyed a 5-3 advantage before the 17-year-old Sen clawed his way back to 7-7 and completed the win thereafter.
In the doubles semi-finals, top seeds Rohan Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg needed only 32 minutes to dispatch Vighnesh Devlekar and Harika V 21-15, 21-16 to enter the mixed doubles final.
They will take on the unseeded combine of Manu Attri and Maneesha K, who continued their rampage with a fine 21-18, 21-17 win over Shlok Ramchandran and Mithula UK.
In women’s doubles, top seeds Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram continued their quest for the title with a strong 21-13, 21-16 victory over Kuhoo Garg and Anoushka Parikh. They will take on the unseeded Shikha Gautam and Ashwini Bhat K in the summit clash after the latter edged Aparna Balan and Sruthi KP 21-19, 24-22.
Men’s doubles top seeds Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran eased past Dhruv Kapila and Krishna Prasad Garaga 21-13, 21-13 while second seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Chirag Shetty beat Arun George and Sanyam Shukla 21-17, 21-18.