BATC 2024: Indian women create history, upset Japan to reach maiden final (Ld)

February 17, 2024

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Asmita Chaliha, Anmol Kharab, Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand did the star turn as the Indian women’s team rode on the prowess of their young guns to upset top seed Japan 3-2 and reached their first-ever final of the Badminton Asia Team Championships at Selangor, Malaysia, on Saturday.

Young singles players of the team, Ashmita Chaliha and Anmol Kharab, continued their superb run in the tournament by beating Nozomi Okuhara and Natsuki Nidaira, respectively. The doubles combination of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand stunned the world No. 6 pairing of Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida to win a point for India.

“This is a proud moment for Indian badminton. Youngsters have justified the selection by rising to the occasion and contributing to the success and history by reaching the final of the Badminton Asia Team Championships for the first time” said Sanjay Mishra, General Secretary, Badminton Association of India.

The team, which had upset the mighty China in the group stage, once again showed that they were not intimidated by any opponent or any situation as the youngsters punched above their weight in the semifinal encounter.

Having reached the last-four stage for the first time in the history of the tournament, the women needed a strong start from two-time Olympic medallist P.V. Sindhu but things did not go according to plan.

Sindhu began strong against Aya Ohori but a dip in concentration helped the Japanese take the opening game. The Indian star shuttler lost nine straight points at the start of the second game till she stitched together a run of nine points to draw level 10-19 to 19-19. She did manage to save a match point but could not sustain the momentum and lost 21-13, 22-20.

The young combination of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand then had an uphill task of upsetting the world No.6 pairing of Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida to keep the team in the hunt and they delivered in what was the third meeting between the two pairs.

Treesa and Gayatri began by winning the opening game but the experience of the Japanese found a way to force the decider. They found their footing once again in the decider and opened up a 19-13 lead before they were again put under pressure by their more experienced opponents. To their credit, the young Indian combination did not lose heart despite the scores being levelled at 19-19 and then converted their second match point to win 21-17, 16-21, 22-20.

Ashmita Chaliha then rose to the occasion and was at her aggressive best to beat former world champion Nozomi Okuhara 21-17, 21-14 to put the Indians ahead. The Indian team’s think tank pressed Sindhu into action in the second doubles, teaming her up with Ashwini Ponnappa. But the pair went down 14-21, 11-21 against the world No.11 combination of Rena Miyaura and Ayako Sakuramoto.

This meant that national champion Anmol Kharab needed to once again shoulder the responsibility of seeing her team through and the 17-year-old came out in flying colours. Playing in her first major senior event, the world No.472 hardly showed any nerves and dominated the proceedings for most of her 52-minute clash against Natsuki Nidaira, ranked no 29 in the world, to win 21-14, 21-18 and seal the victory.

In the final, India will face Thailand, who defeated Indonesia 3-1 in the other semi-final.

Result (semifinals):

Women: India bt Japan 3-1 (PV Sindhu lost to Aya Ohori 13-21, 20-22; Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand bt Nami Matsuyama/Chiharu Shida 21-17, 16-21; 22-20; Ashmita Chaliha bt Nozomi Okuhara 21-17, 21-14; Sindhu/Ashwini Ponnappa lost to Rena Miyaura/Ayako Sakuramoto 14-21, 11-21; Anmol Kharab bt Natsuki Nidaira 21-14, 21-18).

–IANS

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