A change of guard in the men singles and an 18-year-old champion in the ladies section became a certainty on an action-packed penultimate day of the ATS 51st National badminton championship here on Sunday.
Defending champions P. Kashyap and Sayali Gokhale had an off-day. They succumbed to younger, fitter rivals in contrasting ways and inadvertently lit up the evening’s proceedings at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium.
B. Srikanth, seeded five, showed no mercy to a less-than-fit Kashyap in their 37-minute clash and scored a maiden victory over his senior colleague from the Gopi Chand Academy. With his ability to smash restricted due to a strapped left-shoulder, Kashyap could not do enough to stop an all-attacking Srikanth.
Kashyap did not appear too shaken by the defeat. “I have not lost to Srikanth even in practice. But today, after a point, I was more focussed on not aggravating my injury than on winning,” said Kashyap after his 21-14, 21-19 defeat.
In the final, Srikanth will face another Academy-trainee, second seed R. M. V. Gurusaidatt. The second seed battled hard against former champion Saurabh Verma in a gruelling three-game thriller in the quarterfinals and still had enough in the tank to beat B. Sai Praneeth in straight games in the semifinals.
Recently-crowned National junior girls champion Rituparna Das outthought and outmanoeuvred title-holder Sayali, after dropping the first game, to earn a shot at the title against second seed P. V. Sindhu.
Rituparna’s 13-21, 21-13, 21-14 triumph was the result of the youngster’s revised strategy in the second and third games, where she made Sayali move a lot more. Rituparna’s wider range of strokes kept Sayali guessing. As the match became longer, Rituparna’s superior fitness and focus proved decisive in the 53-minute encounter.
Sindhu, winner in January 2012 and dethroned by Sayali nine months later, was tested to the hilt by former runner-up Arundhati Pantawane during their 33-minute showdown. Sindhu played the big points better to break her rival’s resolve for a 21-17, 21-14 victory.
In the women’s doubles final, second seeds G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa get a shot at the top seeds Pradnya Gadre and Sikki Reddy, to whom they had lost last week in Mumbai.
Ashwini, who later reached the mixed doubles final with K. Tarun, is in line for a ‘double’. Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas, the men doubles’ champion from 2004 to 2010, justified their fourth seeding and came within three points of upstaging the top seeds Pranaav Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar in an exciting 66-minute semifinal.
The results (prefix denotes seeding):
Men singles (semifinals): 5-K. Srikanth bt 1-P. Kashyap 21-14, 21-19; 2-R. M. V. Gurusaidatt bt 6-B. Sai Praneeth 21-13, 21-19; (quarterfinals): Kashyap bt 7-H. S. Prannoy 21-16, 21-19; Srikanth bt 4-Anand Pawar 18-21, 21-14, 21-13; Praneeth bt 3-Ajay Jayaram 21-16, 15-21, 21-12; Gurusaidutt bt 8-Saurabh Verma 21-17, 17-21, 21-18.
Women singles (semifinals): 15-Rituparna Das bt 7-Sayali Gokhale 13-21, 21-13, 21-14; 2-P. V. Sindhu bt 3-Arundhati Pantawane 21-17, 21-14; (quarterfinals): Sayali bt Arathi Sara 5-3 (retd.); Rituparna bt 4-Tanvi Lad 15-21, 21-12, 21-7; Arundhati bt 6-Saili Rane 21-14, 21-18; Sindhu bt 5-P. Thulasi 21-11, 21-10.
Men doubles (semifinals): 1-Pranav Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar bt 4-Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas 19-21, 21-14, 21-18; 2-Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy bt Alwin Francis and Arun Vishnu 18-21, 23-21, 21-18.
Women doubles (semifinals): 1-Pradnya Gadre and N. Sikki Reddy bt 3-Aparna Balan and P. V. Sindhu 21-16, 21-18.
Mixed doubles (semifinals): K. Tarun and Ashwini Ponnappa bt 3-K. Nandagopal and N. Sikki Reddy21-15, 21-14; 2-Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan bt Chirag Sen and Kuhoo Garg 21-9, 21-11.