Sankar Muthusamy finishes world junior badminton runner-up
The 18-year-old saved six match points in the second game before losing to Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Kuan Lin in the final of the tournament in Santander, Spain.
Sankar Muthusamy tried everything. He battled hard against a physically stronger opponent, even saved six championship points. But it wasn’t enough as the Chennai shuttler lost in straight games to Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Kuan Lin in the men’s singles final of the BWF World Junior Championships in Santander, Spain on Sunday.
With the 14-21, 20-22 loss at the Palacio de Deportes de Santander, the 18-year-old had to be content with silver. India’s wait for a second junior world champion—first in men’s—continued as Sankar became the fourth Indian, and second male player, to finish runner-up at the global event after Aparna Popat (1996), Saina Nehwal (2006) and Siril Verma (2015). Saina is the only Indian to win the junior world title, which she did in 2008.
Sankar may have lost the final, but has raised great hope for Indian badminton’s future, after a run that is doubly creditable considering that he does not come from the traditional badminton strongholds Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
“This is quite a creditable achievement. He has been performing well. Even in the senior ranking tournaments, he beat some of the older players. He needs to develop more strength and power but at the moment he is very consistent and can retrieve well,” U Vimal Kumar, former chief national coach and current selection committee member, said from Bengaluru.
Sankar’s game is based on defence, just like Japanese two-time world champion Kento Momota, explains his coach Aravindan Samiappan, who has trained him for the last 12 years at the Fireball Badminton Academy in Mogappair, Chennai. “Sankar is a very smart player. He is very tactical. He doesn’t have that strength but compensates for it with a sharp brain, with the variations in the game,” Samiappan said from Santander.
He uses his subtle variations to stick in there and keep the shuttle in play, frustrating opponents and wearing them down to regularly commit errors, a tactic he used throughout the week to become India’s first finalist in the competition in seven years.
In Kuo though, Sankar faced a tough opponent who used his jump smashes to great effect from the word go. In the first match between the two, the lanky Chinese Taipei shuttler caught Sankar off-guard with his power, attacking game and pace, killing the shuttle everytime it came into his range. Some uncharacteristic errors by the Indian, who wasn’t able to stem the tide, also helped Kuo’s cause.
After bulldozing his way past Sankar in the first game, the question was whether Kuo would be able to maintain his level and momentum with his energy-sapping game. Like throughout the tournament, Sankar, the junior world No 4, fought back in the second game by not giving up, just hanging in there and keeping the shuttle in play.
From a near impossible position after trailing 14-20 in the second game, the fourth seed saved six championship points to level the scores at 20-all. But Kuo used his trademark weapon—the jump smash—to close out the 48-minute contest by converting his seventh match point.