The inability to encourage our doubles teams came back to haunt the Indian badminton contingent as they crashed out of the prestigious Sudirman Cup in the group stages last week. Presenting our weekly recap of Indian badminton –
Saina Nehwal was the only unbeaten Indian badminton star at the Sudirman Cup
The biennial World Mixed Team Championships present a stern test of a team’s all-round talent and skill in both singles and doubles. India might have been making rapid strides in the international circuit as far as their singles players are concerned but doubles still remains a vulnerable area. The Indian badminton team, whose best performance so far has been a 5th place finish in 2011, needed a strong support from its doubles pairs to advance to the quarter-finals.
From the outset, it was an uphill task for India at the Sudirman Cup as they were placed in group 1D, clubbed together with three-time winner Korea and Malaysia. The Malaysian team was buoyed by the return of former world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei from a dope-related suspension and that made things even more difficult for India.
India 2-3 Malaysia
India started with a narrow 2-3 loss to Malaysia at the Dongfeng Nissan Sports Center in Dongguan, China as Saina Nehwal and the duo of Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa delivered the wins. Jwala and Ashwini stole the show with their determined efforts that saw them upsetting the world no. 11 pair of Vivian Kah Mun Hoo and Woon Khe Wei 21-18, 19-21, 21-15.
World no. 2 Saina Nehwal gave India the other win as she triumphed 24-22, 21-13 over the 56th-ranked Tee Jing Yi.
All hopes were pinned on the fourth-ranked Kidambi Srikanth for a third win but the tactical prowess of Lee Chong Wei proved too big a barrier for Srikanth. The former top-ranked Malaysian started slow but soon steered the match in his favor, finishing with a 21-16, 21-15 victory.
The Indian men’s and mixed doubles teams, unfortunately, could not provide any resistance to their Malaysian opponents. While the men’s doubles duo of Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy went down 15-21, 16-21 to Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong, the mixed doubles pairing of N Sikki Reddy/Arun Vishnu lost 14-21, 18-21 to Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying.
India 1-4 Korea
After the narrow defeat against Malaysia, India needed to win the tie v Korea to progress into the quarter-finals. However, the Indian shuttlers came up short and Saina Nehwal was the only saving grace of the day.
The tie began with the men’s doubles contest. Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar were up against the world no. 9 pair of Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang. The Indians fought well in the second game but were eventually outclassed 10-21, 19-21.
In women’s singles, shuttle queen Saina Nehwal lost a game but re-grouped well to register a 22-20, 17-21, 21-13 triumph over world no. 13 Bae Yeon Ju.
Parupalli Kashyap, who was chosen ahead of Kidambi Srikanth, kept Indian hopes alive by winning the first game. But the fifth-ranked Son Wan Ho upped his aggression in the second and third games and closed out the match with a 13-21, 21-14, 21-13 victory.
The onus was once again on former World Championships bronze medallists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. They fought hard but it was not enough to topple the Koreans. Chang Ye Na and Jung Kyung Eun won the contest 18-21, 21-12, 21-12 to seal a 3-1 victory for Korea.
India had to play for pride in the mixed doubles rubber. Manu Attri and N Sikki Reddy had their task cut out as they faced the eighth-ranked pair of Kim Ha Na and Ko Sung Hyun. With a 21-12, 22-20 triumph, the Koreans beat India by a 4-1 margin.
In women’s singles, both Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu continue to hold on to their world no. 2 and world no. 11 spots respectively. In men’s singles too, there has been no change in the top 50 in the latest BWF rankings. Kidambi Srikanth, Parupalli Kashyap and HS Prannoy maintain their World No. 4, No. 13 and No 15 rankings respectively.