Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu expectedly sailed into the semifinals with two straight-game wins, while defending champion Saina Nehwal entered the quarters after winning a late pre-quarterfinal match on a day of intense drama at the 83rd Senior National Badminton Championship on Thursday. Sindhu went about her business as usual, beating Riya Mookerjee 21-16 21-7 in 28 minutes to progress to the semifinals on a day when three pre-quarterfinals were postponed due to uneven court surface at the Assam Badminton Academy.
The top seed from Hyderabad, a former champion, had opened her campaign with a 21-11 21-13 win over Nagpur’s Malvika Bansod in the morning. Saina, who had refused to play her pre-quarterfinals against Pune’s Shruti Mundada at the same court due to “uneven” surface earlier in the morning, finally walked out to play her match late evening after the organisers managed to prepare a fresh court over a wooden plank at the TRP Indoor stadium here.
The Olympic bronze medallist beat Shruti 21-11 21-10 to set up a clash with Neha Pandit on Friday, while her husband and fellow shuttler Parupalli Kashyap, seeded third, beat Rahul Yadav C 20-22 21-17 21-17 in the next match which ended at 11:45pm. The former Commonwealth Games champion will face young Lakshya Sen for a place in the semis on Friday.
Nagpur’s Vaishnavi Bhale and Assam’s Ashmita Chaliha, meanwhile, dished out superb fightback to book their maiden women’s singles semifinal spot, while Lakshya Sen and Kaushal Dharmamer too progressed to the last four with straight game wins in men’s singles.
Vaishnavi, who had won the All India ranking tournament 2015 and finished runners-up at 2016 edition, dug deep to eke out a hard-fought 19-21 22-20 21-11 win over third seed Shriyanshi Pardeshi.
The maximum cheer was, however, reserved for local sensation Ashmita, who kept her cool in two successive thrillers to set up a semifinal clash with two-time world championship silver medallist Sindhu.
The 19-year-old left-handed sensation, who claimed her first two senior international titles at the Dubai International Challenge and Tata Open International Challenge last year, showed great rearguard action to secure a 16-21 21-17 21-19 win over Aakarshi Kashyap in the quarters, amid loud cheers from her home fans.
The fourth-seeded Assamese girl had earlier defeated Vaidehi Choudhari 21-13 15-21 21-12 in the pre-quarterfinals.
While last edition’s semifinalist Lakshya beat Aryamann Tandon 21-14 21-10, Kaushal ended Harsheel Dani’s superb run with a 21-11 21-19 win to make his maiden semifinal spot at the tournament.
Earlier in the day, top seed Sameer Verma conceded his men’s singles encounter against Aryamann midway at 21-16 1-8 after straining his Achilles tendon.
Controversy erupted then when Saina refused to play her singles match, forcing the organisers to reschedule the three pre-quarterfinal matches, involving Saina, Kashyap and B Sai Praneeth, to the evening session after consulting the players.
While Saina and Kashyap played at the freshly-laid court, second seed Praneeth defeated Rohit Yadav C 21-10 21-10 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Sourabh Verma after preferring to play at the adjacent court at the Assam Badminton Academy as the evening session got delayed by two and a half hours.
Earlier, Sourabh defeated Kartik Jindal 21-8 21-15, Lakshya brushed aside Ansal Yadav 21-11 21-8 and Harsheel stunned fourth seed and 2018 SaarLorLux Open champion Subhankar Dey 21-15 21-17 to enter the quarters.
In men’s doubles, top seeds Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran defeated Rohan Kapoor and Saurabh Sharma 21-11 21-18 to enter the semifinals, while Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Chirag Shetty got the better off veteran pair of Rupesh Kumar and V Diju 21-8 18-21 22-20 to make it to the last four stage.
Arun George and Sanyam Shukla and Krishna Prasad G and Dhruv Kapila also advanced to the semifinals.
Like last year, the players ranked within top 50 in the BWF ranking and top shuttlers in the BAI ranking, filled up the top eight places, who were given direct entry in the singles pre-quarterfinals after a super draw was conducted on Wednesday night.
(With PTI Inputs)