Irrepressible India! – Day 3 (Session 2): TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO

Lower-ranked India dealt Indonesia a huge body blow tonight, blitzing the badminton powerhouse 4-1 in sub-group 1D, dubbed the ‘group of death’ at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2017.

Having already lost to Denmark yesterday, India’s backs were to the wall and they fought tenaciously to remain relevant in the conversation at Gold Coast Sports & Leisure Centre, snatching the crucial opening point – in a terrific Mixed Doubles battle – followed by straight-games wins in both singles matches. In between those victories by Kidambi Srikanth (featured image; versus Jonatan Christie) and Pusarla V Sindhu, the season’s leading Men’s Doubles duo, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, gave Indonesia a glimmer of hope. However, that was quickly extinguished as Olympic silver medallist Pusarla powered to the decisive third point in Women’s Singles – 21-8 21-19 versus the pint-sized Fitriani Fitriani.

“I feel great to get the winning point. I was confident and I didn’t allow myself to get complacent even when I was leading. Each point was equally important,” said Pusarla, hailing her Mixed Doubles team-mates for grabbing a precious point in India’s push for a quarter-finals spot.

“Mixed Doubles was a fantastic match and it wasn’t easy but we believe in ourselves. We fought hard yesterday but we lost and today we played more confidently and we won. It will be good if we can get to the quarter-finals.”

India’s impressive rout of the joint 5/8 seeds was completed when Ashwini Ponnappa – one half of the Mixed Doubles duo who started the successful run – returned to centre court in Women’s Doubles to partner N. Sikki Reddy to a 21-12 21-19 triumph over Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari.

The much-heralded Mixed Doubles was claimed by Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy; the latter stepping up to senior level barely six months after competing in the BWF World Junior Championships. The 17-year-old showcased fearless shot-making despite staring at Rio 2016 champion, Tontowi Ahmad, across the net. Rankireddy was deadly from the back court while also working the shuttle smartly around to set up kills. Though he and Ponnappa prevailed 22-20 17-21 21-19, it could have been so much different had Ahmad and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja capitalised on their 20-17 advantage in the first game. They led from the outset to seize the second game but fell behind early in the decider and never recovered despite clawing back to within a point from 7-15 down. Some poor strokes by Ahmad in the dying exchanges helped the opposition and, perhaps fittingly, it was Rankireddy who found an open space deep in the court for the winning shot as the hapless Ahmad was left stranded on the turf.

“It’s great to be playing in Sudirman Cup, among the seniors. It’s a good experience for me and I am happy we won for our team,” said a thrilled Rankireddy.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s team manager, Susi Susanti, blamed the doubles results for their downfall, conceding they were not expecting to win in singles. Though tomorrow night’s tie against Denmark will be “hard”, she remained optimistic and vowed Indonesia will give their best.

Elsewhere, Group 2 contenders Singapore and Australia set up a potentially enthralling clash to determine who tops sub-group 2B. Both achieved 5-0 results versus USA and Austria respectively to remain unbeaten. Sawan Serasinghe and Setyana Mapasa starred for the hosts in Mixed Doubles and then in their respective doubles. In the Singapore-USA tie, only twin sisters, Annie and Kerry Xu, extended the Asians to three games, with Singapore winning the other four matches in eight games overall.

“They are the hosts and the crowd will be backing them. They have a good team so we have to look at our line-up and decide who to field. We know from here it will only get tougher and we have to be ready for that,” said Singapore coach, Chua Yong Joo.

In the clash of the Pacific minnows, Fiji defeated Tahiti 4-1. Both teams were previously beaten by Sri Lanka and Slovakia who meet tomorrow morning to determine which of them tops sub-group 3B.

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