Badminton: India men rewrite history, enter Thomas Cup semis after 43 years; women go down fighting to Thailand in quarter-finals
Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty helped India rewrite history with a hard fought 3-2 win over Malaysia to enter semi-finals of prestigious Thomas Cup Badminton Tournament after a gap of 43 years. Indian women, however, lost their quarter-final encounter to the hosts, Thailand 0-3 to bow out of the Uber Cup.
It is only fourth time in the history of Thomas Cup that India has reached the last four stage. India now plays Denmark. In the quarterfinals Denmark came from behind to beat Korea 3-2 to become the only non- team from outside Asia to enter the semi-finals. It was Rasmus Gemke, who won the last singles match against Yun G Lee at 21-19, 21-15 to carry Denmark through. Earlier, the doubles pair of AS Ramussen and Fredrick Soggard overcame first set loss to win the next two to pitch Denmark back in the semi-final run. The Danes beat Korean pair of Soi Gyu Choi and Mon Ho Kim 18-21, 23-21 and 21-17 to level the rubber at 2-2 before Rasmus Gemke clinched it for Denmark.
Earlier, Indonesia and Japan also made the last four grade in Thomas Cup. While Indonesia defeated China 3-0, Japan overcame a stiff challenge from Chinese Taipei before emerging 3-2 victors.
The Uber Cup semi-finals will be an all Asian affair with the hosts Thailand taking on China while Japan faces Korea.
It is one of few occasions that the Indian men arrived with strength in this edition of the elite tournament. Indian women team, that came without Saina Nehwal and Ashwani Ponnappa, cleared the pool stage to make the last eight. India had identical 4-1 wins over both USA and Canada but faced a whitewash 0-5 loss to Korea to finish second in the group.
The hosts Thailand, almost repeated its previous edition squad to make the last four round of the Uber Cup. Its clinical 3-0 win over India was its reiteration of trust in its team of Ratchanok Intanon (who beat PV Sindhu in first singles), Busanan Ongbamrungphan, Rawinda Prajongjai/Jongkolphan Kititharakul – and with Pornpawee Chochuwong, Phittayaporn Chaiwan and Supanida Katethong in singles and Benyapa Aimsaard/Nuntakarn Aimsaard in second doubles, helped it to cruise through to the knockout rounds.
In the quarter-finals, PV Sindhu lost to R. Intanon in three sets. She won the first set at 21-18 but lost the next two at 17-21 and 12-21. Aakarshi Kashyap lost to P. Chochuwong at 16-21, 11-21. The Thai doubles pair also got the better of Indian pair of Shruti Mishra and Simran Singhi at 21-16, 21-13 to take its team to the semis with a winning lead of 3-0.
In Thomas Cup, India took on Chinese Taipei, Germany and Canada in Group C and with its top players in form, it had almost smooth passage to the quarterfinals but for the match against Chinese Taipei.
India’s three singles – Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy – and top doubles pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty demonstrated their form by winning three points against any team in the competition. Kidambi, Prannoy and Rankireddy/Shetty used their quality and the experience, while Sen’s youthful energy and ability to handle pressure proved vital to swing the ties their way.
India’s previous record of reaching semi-finals dates back to 1952, 1955 and 1979.
Chinese Taipei too fielded a solid squad, with Chou Tien Chen and Wang Tzu Wei in singles and Lee Yang and Wang Chi Lin and Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han in doubles. The Chinese Taipei-India group match turned out to be a cracker of a contest which the former won 3-2 for the latter’s only defeat. India had beaten Canada and Germany with identical 5-0 margins.
For Canada, Brian Yang worked up good form over the last few months, and with Jason Anthony Ho-Shue/Nyl Yakura in doubles, the Canadians, however, could not pose much problems to both India and Chinese Taipei but came close to win against Germany before losing 2-3.
Three-time world champion Carolina Marin made a brief comeback trail from a year-long injury layoff, to lead the way for Spain’s 4-1 victory in its final Uber Cup Group B tie against Australia.
Marin acknowledged that she was at “50 or 60 per cent” following surgery for a left knee ACL injury that she sustained a year ago. She returned home after the match against Australia to resume her treatment and training.
Marin said she would aim to get in her best shape by the World Championships in August.