CWG Badminton: Saina, Kashyap storm into semifinals

By Avishek Roy, IANS,

New Delhi: India’s Saina Nehwal produced a dominating performance while Parupalli Kashyap pulled off a stunning upset to advance to the women’s and men’s singles semifinals in the badminton event at the Commonwealth Games here Monday.

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In contrasting wins, Kashyap fought back from a game down for a 19-21, 21-19, 21-16 upset win over fourth-seeded Malaysian Muhammad Hafiz Hashim while Saina outclassed Canada’s Anna Rice during her 21-7, 21-10 victory.

“I am happy with the way I have performed so far. I was moving well and I hope to keep playing the same way. I have trained and practised hard and I am looking forward to my semi-final,” said Saina, who next plays Scotland’s Susan Egelstaff. Saina had beaten Egelstaff in the mixed team event.

In the men’s singles, the 24-year-old Kashyap, ranked 32, thrilled a capacity crowd as he got the better of his famed Malaysian rival, world ranked 19, in an hour-long duel. Kashyap, seeded sixth, now plays England’s second-seeded Rajiv Ouseph, whom the Indian beat in the semi-final of the mixed team event, for a place in the singles final.

Also moving into the semi-finals was third-seeded Indian Chetan Anand, who defeated England’s Carl Baxter 21-17, 21-9.

In the women’s doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa made the semi-finals with a 21-9, 21-14 victory over England’s Mariana Agathangelou and Heather Olver. The Indian pair had pulled off a fine victory against Malaysian Eei Hui Chin and Woon Khe Wei 15-21, 21-10, 21-16 in the pre-quarters in the morning session.

But there was some disappointment in store as Aditi Mutatkar went down to second seeded Malaysian Mew Choo Wong 8-21, 12-21 in the women’s singles quarter-final.

Indian mixed doubles pair of Gutta and V.Diju went down to Malaysian combination Kien Kit Koo and Ei Hui Chin, 13-21, 19-21 while in the men’s doubles quarterfinals, India’s Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas lost to Singapore’s Liang Derek and Chayut Triyachart 16-21, 16-21.

The day belonged to Kashyap, who produced a sensational performance against the 2003 All England Champion.

That Kashyap would create an upset was on the cards going by the way he played in the mixed team event where coach Pullela Gopichand showed faith in the youngster and put him for the decisive singles match in the semi-final and final, in place of experienced Chetan Anand. Kashyap upset Ouseph in the mixed team event semifinal and then put up a spirited fight against World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.

Monday night, Kashyap played patiently and attacked with vengeance. He engaged Hafiz in long rallies and then unnerved him with stinging smashes. The crowd got behind Kashyap, who after rallying from a game down, was confidence personified and did not concede the lead in the decider. His dribbling at the net was equally impressive.

“If you have to reach at the top bracket of world badminton, you should know how to beat players like Hashim. I am happy that I am slowly learning the ropes. It is one of my finest victories,” Kashyap said.

“I want to win a medal for the country.”

“Hafiz is a tall player and has sharp strokes. I kept on retrieving and waited for an opportunity to attack. He was playing freely so I had to be patient and back myself,” said Kashyap, whose asthma has often been a hindrance in his career.

Kashyap said the vociferous backing of the crowd helped him grow in confidence.

“That is how we feel (pressure) when the Malaysians play at home. The crowd gets behind the home player. You cannot imagine how difficult it is to play Malaysian players in their backyard. I am happy that for once I am getting such crowd support at home. It has been a big help.”