It started with a lot of promise but sadly ended with a whimper. India’s badminton campaign grinded to a halt on Friday at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon after India’s biggest singles medal hope Saina Nehwal bowed out in the quarter-finals.
Saina had a tough proposition in the form of World no. 3 Wang Yihan.
Losing Streak Continues
Saina had never won a full match against the former World no. 1 in 9 attempts and her only win over Wang Yihan came due to the retirement of the Chinese at the Denmark Open in 2012.
It was seemingly insurmountable but not entirely impossible. Saina raised hopes of a semi-final appearance in the first game which was closely fought. The world No. 7 Indian looked to have brought her recent surge of confidence into the match and piled the pressure on the Chinese. She kept up the attack and forced Yihan into numerous errors. The strategy worked. Saina took the first game 21-18.
But from the second game onwards, Saina lost steam and handed the momentum back to Yihan. Saina looked passive, slow and lethargic in her attempts and Yihan didn’t need a second chance to turn the match around. She seized the second game 21-9. The third game went the same away with Saina unable to put up any semblance of a fight and Yihan ran away with the match 18-21, 21-8, 21-7.
Losses in Men’s Singles and Doubles
Earlier, Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap was knocked out of the tournament in the Round of 16 by the World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei. It was a very tough encounter for Kashyap who too had never even won a single game against the Malaysian and surrendered to the top-ranked player 21-12, 21-11 in 34 minutes.
World No. 22 and the top-ranked Indian Kidambi Srikanth put up a spirited fight against World No. 7 Korean Son Wan Ho but it was not enough as the Korean shut the door 21-19, 11-21, 18-21 to advance to the quarter-finals.
In men’s doubles, Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy who had created a stir yesterday by upsetting the World No 10 pair couldn’t replicate their performance today against the second seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. Though they kept up the pressure in the second game, the Indonesian pair won the quarter-final match 21-12, 21-19.
In mixed doubles, the only remaining Indian pair of Attri and Sikki Reddy were close to getting a win but ultimately surrendered the Round of 16 match to the Singaporean pair of Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Yu Yan Vanessa Neo 21-18, 21-23, 21-15.
Thus the Indian shuttlers wrapped up at the 17th Asian Games. They did improve upon their performance from the 2010 edition as India got a badminton medal after 28 years – the women’s team bronze. Expectations were a lot higher and injuries to key players such as doubles exponent Jwala Gutta curbed India’s chances too. Nevertheless the Indian team gave their all and should look to build on the positives and work with the objective of getting a better medal haul at the next Games.