PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal won their respective semifinals in contrasting fashion to set up a mouth-watering women’s singles summit showdown at the 83rd Yonex-Sunrise Senior National Championship in Guwahati on Saturday.
In a repeat of last edition’s title clash at Nagpur, the two stalwarts will look to outdo each other and write another chapter in their on-field rivalry.
While Sindhu overcame a challenge from Assam’s promising 19-year-old Ashmita Chaliha 21-10 22-20 in the first semifinal, Saina got the better of Nagpur qualifier Vaishnavi Bhale, who was part of India’s Uber Cup squad last year, 21-15 21-14 to storm into the finals.
Saina had the last laugh against Sindhu in the last two encounters at the Nagpur Nationals in 2017 and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games gold-medal match last year.
While Saina has won the title in 2006, 2007 and 2018, Sindhu clinched the trophy twice, in 2011 and 2013.
“It will be just another match and I don’t think it will help me for All England, I will just look to focus and give my best,” Sindhu said about the final.
In men’s singles, Lakshya Sen, who is a Asian junior champion and a bronze medallist at the World Junior Championship, secured his second final with a 21-15 21-16 win over former winner and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap in the second semifinal.
The 17-year-old Sen, from Uttarakhand, had lost the finals of the 81st edition against Sourabh Verma and he would look to settle the scores when he faces the 26-year-old from Dhar in the finals on Saturday.
Two-time former champion Sourabh sealed his final spot after beating Mumbai’s Kaushal Dharmamer 21-14 21-17 in 44 minutes.
Earlier in the day, former champions Saina, Kashyap and Sourabh advanced to the semifinals with contrasting wins.
The three-time former champion Saina hardly broke a sweat to get the better of former India no. 1 Neha Pandit of Mumbai 21-10, 21-10 in a lop-sided quarter-final contest.
Kashyap, a 2012 winner, prevailed 21-18 21-16 over Bodhit Joshi, who had reached the finals of Iceland International last year.
Both Saina and Kashyap had played their pre-quarterfinal match on Thursday night at the newly-laid wooden court at the TRP indoor stadium after refusing to play at the Assam Badminton Academy courts due to “uneven” surface.
Former world no. 30 Verma, who had clinched Super 100 titles at Russia Open and Dutch Open last year, eked out a hard-fought 21-11 21-23 21-18 triumph over B Sai Praneeth.
Verma grabbed seven straight points from 14-17 down in the decider against former Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth in the quarter-finals.
In the other semi-final matches of the day, Rohan Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg lived up to their reputation as the top seeds in mixed doubles. The world no. 46 pair needed only 32 minutes to dispatch Vighnesh Devlekar and Harika V 21-15, 21-16 to enter the final.
They will take on the unseeded combine of Manu Attri and Maneesha K, who continued their rampage with a fine 21-18, 21-17 win over Shlok Ramchandran and Mithula UK.
In women’s doubles, top seeds Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram continued their quest for the title with a strong 21-13, 21-16 victory over Kuhoo Garg and Anoushka Parikh. They will take on the unseeded Shikha Gautam and Ashwini Bhat K in the summit clash after the latter edged Aparna Balan and Sruthi KP 21-19, 24-22.
Men’s doubles second seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Chirag Shetty beat Arun George and Sanyam Shukla 21-17, 21-18 to secure a place in the final.
New kid in the block: Ashmita packs a punch at Senior Nationals
Promising Assamese player Ashmita Chaliha gave ample display of her immense talent, packing a punch during her women’s singles semifinal clash with Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu at the Senior Badminton Nationals here Friday.
The 19-year-old from Guwahati, who had clinched two international titles at the Dubai Open and TATA Open in 2018, displayed a wide array of strokes and showed great temperament during her fighting 10-21 20-22 loss to Sindhu, a two-time World Championship silver medallist.
Initially, the occasion seemed to have got to Ashmita as she couldn’t connect her strokes and lost the opening game rather meekly.
“I was nevous initially and hit out a lot and couldn’t match her pace in the first game,” Ashmita said later.
However, with the local crowd egging her, the Assamese progidy’s prowess was in full display in the second game when she fought her way from 8-13 down to not only draw level but also grab a 19-16 lead at one stage, conjuring hopes of a decider.
The experienced Sindhu eventually prevailed after clawing back to 19-19 and grabbing a match point at 20-19. Ashmita saved one before going wide to hand over the match to her fancied opponent.
“I managed to give her a fight in the second game. I was constantly talking with myself and those were not funny chats. I was reminding myself of my errors,” she said.
“I need to work on my errors. I hope next time I don’t go down in straight games,” said Ashmita, who had played against Sindhu at the Inter-State Team Championship in Vijaywada in 2015.
Ashmita burst on the scene when she sealed a spot in the Asian Games squad, riding on her semifinal finish in the Bengaluru All-India event and then winning in Hyderabad.
Indonesian coach Edwin Iriawan joining the Assam Badminton Academy a year back seemed to be a boon for Ashmita.
“Ever since Indonesian coach Edwin Iriawan came here, he has been helping me to work on my stamina and stroke,” she said.
A self-confessed fan of Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei, Ashmita followed the former world no. 1’s game and even tried to copy his strokes.
“I used to watch Lee Chong Wei’s videos, he is my favourites and I tried to copy his strokes.”
The hours of going through the videos and the work put in with Edwin seemed to work wonders as she won back-to-back International Challenger at Dubai and TATA Open to finish the year on a high. She also won three All-India ranking tournaments at Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.
Sindhu too had a word of praise for her young opponent.
“I have been seeing her for a long time. She has improved a lot and she has got some great strokes. If she works hard, she will definitely come up. She will do well in a couple of years,” she said.
Ashmita now will head to play two international tournaments in April in Finland and Netherlands.