P Kashyap stood just a win away from a historic gold while P V Sindhu and RMV Gurusaidutt managed a bronze each in the badminton competition of the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Saturday.
Delhi Games gold medallist pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa too were on course to defend their women’s doubles title after winning their last-four match at the Emirates Arena.
World No. 22 Kashyap played out of his skin to avenge his loss to England’s Rajiv Ouseph, who had beaten him at the 2010 Delhi Games and also dumped him during the mixed team event.
In an energy-sapping one hour and 23 minute match, Kashyap bounced back from a game down to edge out World No. 26 Ouseph 18-21 21-17 21-18 and assure himself of at least a silver medal.
World Championship bronze winners Jwala and Ashwini notched up an easy 21-7 21-12 win over Lai Pei Jing and Loo
Yin Lim. The duo will take on World No. 18 Malaysian combo of
Vivian Kah Mun Hoo and Khe Wei Woon in the final showdown.
However, it turned out to be a bitter-sweet day for top seed Sindhu, who is playing her first Commonwealth Games, as she suffered a heartbreaking loss in the women’s single semifinal match to Michelle Li of Canada, settling for a bronze in the end.
After going down fighting to Michelle 22-20 22-20 in the last-four encounter, a crestfallen Sindhu managed to get her act together to beat Malaysia’s Jing Yi Tee 23-21 21-9 in a 34-minute bronze medal contest.
Gurusaidutt, too, earned India a bronze later in the day when he eked out a hard-fought 21-15 14-21 21-19 win over Delhi Games silver medallist Ouseph in a men’s singles match that lasted for over an hour.
It could have been an all-Indian final showdown in the men’s singles but Gurusaidutt earlier could not recreate the same magic which saw him beat top seed Chong Wei Feng of Malaysia last night in the quarterfinals.
After battling for more than an hour, Guru went down 21-16 19-21 15-21 against World No. 40 Derek Wong of Singapore in the other semifinals.
London Olympics quarter-finalist, Kashyap will now take on Wong in the summit clash on Sunday.
In the women’s singles bronze medal match, the disappointment of losing the semifinal was writ large on her face as Sindhu struggled with her strokes throughout the first game. She lost a lot of points at the nets to allow a tired Jing to claw back every time Sindhu moved ahead.
At the first break, Sindhu managed to lead 11-10 but the Malaysian was always breathing down her neck as they moved to 17-16 when Sindhu faltered with a forehand net shot and then hit long twice to hand over the lead to Jing.
However, Sindhu didn’t give up and managed to wrest back control and eventually pocketed the first game when Jing hit wide.
After a pep talk from coach Pullela Gopichand, Sindhu found her bearings and the second game turned out to be a cakewalk as Jing struggled to move around the court, while the Indian dominated with her array of strokes.
The highlight of the day for India was Kashyap’s gritty performance against European Championships silver medallist Ouseph, which conjured up hopes of seeing an Indian male shuttler winning a gold for the first time in 32 years.
Prakash Padukone had won the men’s singles gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, which India retained through Syed Modi four years later.
It was a battle of attrition between Kashyap, 27, and Ouseph as both the shuttlers engaged themselves in long rallies, with the longest going on for 72 minutes in the decider, which had a total of 71 strokes.
Kashyap was up 11-8 but he could not stop Ouseph to run away with the first game. However, he made sure to play long rallies and didn’t allow Ouseph to score points at the forecourt which is his strength and he led both in the second and third game.
After the match, Kashyap said: “He is a very tricky player and we have played against each other earlier. He is one player who can take four-five points on a stretch. He keeps on coming and retrieving the shuttle.
“My tactic was to keep him engaged in a long rally and see if he commits mistakes. It was about who cracks under pressure first. I could not keep him on long rallies in the first game but was able to do it in the second and third. In the third game, I was well ahead towards end but he won a few straight points and came close. But somehow, I am happy that I won,” he said.
After her win in the bronze medal match, Sindhu was asked about her semifinal loss.
“It was anyone’s game. I can’t explain it because I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed not to be in the final but I’ll just have to be happy with this bronze medal.”
“At least I have a bronze but that is not the medal I wanted. I came here for a gold and everyone in India hoped I would win a gold but I will definitely do that in four years’ time (at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games).”
On making a comeback after the reverse in the last-four clash, she said, “My coach told me not to think about it. Ups and downs happen in life. You just have to move on but it was on my mind before the game and it’s still on my mind now.
“My coach said to me that I just had to come back. I could not lose this bronze match as well.”
About the scheduling, with matches being played in the morning and evening, she said, “In India we practise in the morning and then the afternoon and we have to be ready for these occasions so there is no problem.”