Incheon: The Indian women’s badminton team lived up to its potential to reach the semi-final at the Asian Games at the Gyeyang Gymnasium here Saturday. The shuttlers first beat Macau 3-0 in the Round of 16 and then came up with a brilliant performance to oust a strong Thailand 3-2 in the quarter-finals. Reaching the last four, where they will take on South Korea Sunday, assured India of at least a bronze, their first in the discipline since 1986. However, it was the end of the road for the men’s team who lost their opening round match to hosts South Korea.
In the women’s team quarter-final, India’s best bet Saina Nehwal gave her team a good start by defeating former World Champion Ratchanok Intanon 21-15, 17-21, 21-18 in one hour and seven minutes. P.V. Sindhu followed it up with a 21-15, 21-13 victory over Porntip Buranaprasertsuk to give India a 2-0 lead. However, the Thai girls came back well in the next two matches to level the contest at 2-all.
First, P.C. Thulasi went down to Busanan Ongbamrungphan 12-21, 14-21 while was followed by Pradnya Gadre-N. Siki Reddy’s doubles loss to Porntip and Kunchala Voravichitchaikul 17-21, 21-18, 16-21. However, doubles specialist Ashwini Ponnappa combined well with Sindhu to clinch the all-important second doubles 21-16, 21-17 in 38 minutes to defeat Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Saralee Thoungthongkam to propel India into the last four.
Earlier in the pre-quarters, Olympic bronze medallist Saina set the ball rolling for her team as she thrashed Wong Kit Leng 21-6, 21-4. The World No.7 took 31 minutes to win the match over an inexperienced Leng. Next up, double World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu completely dominated U. Teng Lok 21-8, 21-9 to wrap up her match in 36 minutes. The doubles pair of Siki and Pradnya defeated Zhibo Zhang-Rong Wang 21-16, 21-17. The Indian pair initially took time to adjust to get the momentum going in their favour and afterwards it was easy as they won in 45 minutes. However, in the men’s team category, the Parupalli Kashyap-led team were knocked out from the Round of 16.
Kidambi Srikanth, up against World No.7 Son Wan-ho, lost his match 14-21, 8-21 while the team of B. Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri found the going hard against World No.1 Yoo Yeon Seong and Lee Yong Dae, losing 12-21, 9-21 in 35 minutes. The onus of keeping India in contention fell to World No.28 Kashyap but the 28-year-old was stunned by World No.62 Lee Hyun Il. Kashyap started aggressively, winning the first game comfortably 21-6. However, he suddenly seemed to lose all rhythm and lost the next two games 14-21, 10-21 to hand the hosts an easy passage through to the quarter-finals where they will play Japan.