The pressure of making his first junior ranking final saw Dunna Sarath fritter away three match points, before the Andhra player came through with a 10-21, 21-18, 21-19 win over fourth seed Orijit Chaliha in the boys’ U-19 category to make the summit clash at the Smt. Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Badminton Tournament organised by Express Shuttle Club Trust at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex on Saturday. Earlier in the day, the 17-year-old had scored a 18-21, 21-9, 21-18 win over sixth seed Dhruv Rawat in the quarter-finals.
Sarath, who will take on third seed Priyanshu Rajawat in Sunday’s final, took up badminton after watching father Murali Krishna play at Guntur’s Railway Club. Krishna, who worked as an office superintendent at the South Central Railways, decided to send Sarath to train in Hyderabad at Bhaskar Babu’s academy in 2012. The move meant mother Padmavathi Devi and younger brother also relocated to support Sarath’s training.
“My father wanted me to pursue my dream seriously, even if it meant that he had to stay without his family in Guntur. Sometimes, we all would take the six-hour train to meet him and on our way back, he would keep our bags packed in advance, so that we wouldn’t miss the train or my training. I am sure he will be following the final and would tell his friends at the club about it,” says Sarath.
A member of the Andhra Pradesh team, which won the team gold medal in SGFI School Games in Jammu in 2014, Sarath reached the quarter-finals in the Junior Ranking U-17 tournament in Guntur in 2015 and switched to the U-19 category later in the same year. He became the U-19 Andhra Pradesh champion this year and coach Babu believes he has a chance to make the Junior World Championships team with a win on Sunday.
“When he initially came to me, his game was good but he needed to understand the different combinations. But he has always been good at picking up small details. His strength has been his attacking style of play as an all-court player. In the final, he needs to break his opponent’s rhythm initially. It will be a huge thing for him if he can win and make it to the world championships depending on the points earned,” shared Babu, a former Sports Authority of India coach.
Rajawat, his opponent on Sunday, ended the challenge of seventh seed Alap Mishra — who had upset the second seed Kiran George — with a 23-21, 21-17 win in the second semi-final.
Gayatri Gopichand in final
Meanwhile, third seed and defending champion Gayatri Gopichand Pullela made her way into the final with a 21-18, 21-18 win over top seed Aakarshi Kashyap. Pullela, had reached the semi-final after a 21-16, 21-17 win over sixth seed and last week’s finalist in Chandigarh, Purva Barve. “Gayatri’s strength has been her court play and when Aakarshi tossed the shuttle, Gayatri anticipated the drop shots well. As Aakarshi slowed down a little, Gayatri sensed her chance and attacked. It was a draining day for her and she showed a lot of mental strength in these two wins,” shared Anil Kumar, coach from Gopichand Academy.
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