National champion for the 15th successive time

Petroleum completed the routine of extending its lease on the National team badminton titles, for the 15th year in succession, after dismissing Air India in just over two hours in the ATS 69th National team badminton championship here on Thursday.

The Petroleum men, comprising trainees of Gopichand Academy, won all three singles to post a 3-1 triumph after the ladies completed an expected 2-0 triumph.

Though all matches ended in straight games, there were some exciting moments when action followed a predictable course.

After former National champion Saurabh Verma dominated Anand Pawar, seeded fourth in singles, by racing away to leads of 17-9 in the first game and 18-7 in the second to win in 29 minutes, Petroleum faced some anxious moments in the second singles.

Newly-crowned National junior champion Aditya Joshi brought the smiles back on the faces of Air India players by leading all the way to 18-14 against K. Srikanth.

The Petroleum player then showed why he is considered a ‘dark horse’, like Verma, in the race for the singles crown.

Changing gears

Srikanth changed gears, matched Joshi’s aggression and won seven of the next eight points to snatch the game.

In the second, Srikanth built a 9-4 lead and gave no chance to Joshi of a comeback.

The doubles went Air India’s way when Akshay Dewalkar and Sanyam Shukla upstaged Pranav Chopra and K. Tarun 24-22, 21-16 after saving a game-point in the first game.

Thereafter, R.M.V. Gurusaidutt faced a resurgent Harsheel Dani who led eight times in the first game.

Gurusaidutt kept his cool, drew level at 14, opened a 19-15 lead and sealed the opener on the second game-point.

In the second game, Dani and Gurusaidutt were neck-and-neck until 11-all.

Thereafter, the Petroleum player broke away to complete another impressive triumph.

Sindhu beats Sayali

In what was a repeat clash of the last year’s women’s singles final, P.V. Sindhu reversed the result by outplaying defending champion Sayali Gokhale in 33 minutes. The 21-16, 21-17 scoreline aptly reflects the comfort with which Sindhu stayed away from any serious danger of losing again.

After winning the last four points to seize the first game where she never trailed, Sindhu took an early lead in the second. Sayali kept her chances alive by fighting back to lead thrice by a point. Thereafter, from 10-11, Sindhu took control and sealed the match by winning the last three points.

In the doubles that followed, G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa needed just 25 minutes to pack off Sanyogita Ghorpade and Saili Rane, conceding 12 points in each game.

The battles for five individual titles commences on Friday.

Prajakta, Kamaldeep included

Meanwhile in a late development, Prajakta Sawant and Kamaldeep Singh (Haryana) were included in the mixed doubles main draw as the fifth seeds. This followed Wednesday’s verdict of the Bombay High Court directing the BAI to accommodate the Mumbai-girl in the main draw.

Initially, Prajakta had given her entry with Sanave Thomas for the qualifying rounds. But the decision of Kerala to withdraw Sanave’s entry at the last minute forced Prajakta to move the High Court praying that she was being “deprived of participating” in the mixed doubles event.

The results: Team championship (finals):

Men: Petroleum bt Air India 3-1 (Saurabh Verma bt Anand Pawar 21-13, 21-12; K. Srikanth bt Aditya Joshi 21-19, 21-16; K. Tarun & Pranav Chopra lost to Akshay Dewalkar & Sanyam Shukla 22-24, 16-21; R.M.V. Gurusaidutt bt Harsheel Dani 21-19, 21-15).

Women: Petroleum bt Air India 2-0 (P.V. Sindhu bt Sayali Gokhale 21-16, 21-17; G. Jwala & Ashwini Ponnappa bt Sanyogita Ghorpade & Saili Rane 21-12, 21-12).

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