Indian shuttlers ended a 28-year-wait for an Asiad badminton medal by winning the bronze in women’s team event. There were creditable performances from Saina in womens singles and Sumeet Reddy/Manu Attri in mens doubles, but they could not bring home any medals as they lost in the quarterfinals
First a summary of the performances of our top two – Saina and Sindhu
Promising Performance From Saina
Saina Nehwal looked every bit the champion that she is, brimming with confidence throughout the badminton event at Incheon.
She had two wins over opponents from Thailand and South Korea that are ranked higher than her, but in the singles event could not break through the Chinese Wall yet again. Her quarter-final performance after securing the first game versus Wang Yihan was a dampener. But overall, Saina did show her strong fighting spirit and the signs are positive of a come back into the top 5.
Fatigue Hits Sindhu
Playing the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and then the Asiad was probably too grueling a schedule for young PV Sindhu. She started promisingly by winning two matches in the crucial India versus Thailand encounter to lead India to a bronze but probably ran out of steam after that tie .
In the singles event, PV Sindhu, the World No. 10 who had come to Incheon riding high on a second bronze medal at the World Championships, went down fighting in the pre-quarters to a lower ranked player.
With age on her side, this experience will hold Sindhu in good stead and one expects her to come back strongly.
Women’s Team Event Recap
India began the Asiad Badminton tournament on a bright note, thumping Macau 3-0. Against Thailand in the quarter-final, Saina Nehwal showed her grit and determination in seeing off World No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon. Later on PV Sindhu beat World No. 12 Buranaprasertsuk Porntip in straight games. The Indian team then edged past the Thais 3-2 by dint of a victory in the last rubber where PV Sindhu paired up with Ashwini Ponnappa in doubles.
Semi Final Loss
Having thus assured of at least a bronze, India couldn’t better the colour as they went down to South Korea 1-3. Saina beat a higher ranked Jihyun Sung but PV Sindhu couldn’t give India the second singles win as she was beaten in 3 games by Yeonju Bae.
Doubles – Missing Jwala Gutta
India did miss the wealth of experience of star doubles campaigner and 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jwala Gutta who had to pull out with a knee sprain. Her presence might have been crucial in leading the team to a better medal.
Women’s Team Event Summary
Still a start has been made with this bronze and both Saina and Sindhu are young enough to contend in future Asian Games.
Men’s Team Event Recap
The men’s team had to face the strong Korean challenge and went down 0-3 in the Round of 16 tie. Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap left the door open in his singles rubber after taking the first game in his singles match, but his Korean rival shut the door tight after winning the next two games.
If there was any consolation it was in the fact that the South Korean men’s team went on to beat China in the Men’s final
Women’s Singles Event
Saina – Promises But Falls Short
Saina began her hunt for a singles medal against U teng Iok of Macau whom she blanked in straight games. After blasting past her way through her Iranian rival in the Round of 16, Saina set up a much-anticipated quarter-final clash against her nemesis Wang Yihan.
Saina had a tough proposition in the form of World no. 3 Wang Yihan. She had never won a full match versus the former World no. 1 in 9 attempts and her only win over the Chinese came via retirement at the Denmark Open in 2012.
Saina raised hopes of a semi-final appearance in the first game which was closely fought. She kept up the attack and forced Yihan into numerous errors. The strategy worked. Saina took the first game 21-18.
But what looked achievable started getting far away as Saina soon lost steam and handed the momentum to Yihan. She seized the second game 21-9. The third game went on 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.
Sindhu Loses Early
India’s second strong medal hope, PV Sindhu began her campaign registering a 21-17, 21-13 victory over Kit Leng Wong of Macau in 19 minutes. But what looked a bright start for Sindhu turned into despair with her inconsistency and lapse of concentration as she crashed out in the very next round.
She won a first tight first game but couldn’t carry on the momentum in the decider, losing 22-20, 16-21, 20-22 to Indonesian Manuputty Bellaetrix, ranked 34th in the Round of 16.
Men’s Singles Event
With the Asian superpower in badminton like the Chinese and the Koreans expected to dominate the Asian Games, there weren’t a lot of expectations from the men. However with his recent victory at the Commonwealth Games, Parupalli Kashyap raised hopes of a close fight. But those hopes were soon washed out as Kashyap had to face the World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the Round of 16.
It was a very tough encounter for Kashyap who 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.
The Men’s doubles team of Sumeet Reddy/Manu Attri created a huge upset by beating the World No. 10 Chinese pair Liu Xialong and Qiu Zihan 21-17 21-16 to move into the quarter-finals. But they couldn’t replicate their performance against the second seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan in the next round. 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 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.
In women’s doubles Sikki Reddy and Pradnya Gadre put up a brilliant performance against third seeds Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiwa but ultimately went down 16-21 21-19 14-21 in the Pre-Quarter-Final.
Future of Badminton
India did improve upon their performance from the 2010 Asiad badminton edition as India finally bagged a 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.