Teenager Unnati Hooda kept her calm in a hard-fought straight-game victory over Syed Modi Super 300 finalist Malvika Bansod to enter the women’s singles final of the Odisha Open in Cuttack on Saturday.
Hooda, 14, pipped Malvika 24-22 24-22 in a nail-biting 50-minute semifinal clash at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Indoor Stadium.
Bansod has been in good nick recently, having defeated her idol Saina Nehwal at the India Open earlier this month before losing to PV Sindhu in the final of the Syed Modi International last week.
She had also defeated junior world No. 1 Tasnim Mir in the pre-quarterfinals here.
The win against Bansod would be a huge confidence booster for Hood, who is ranked 418th in the world. Hooda had reached the Indian International Challenge final last year where she had lost to 16-year-old Anupama Upadhyaya.
Even given the withdrawals, this is not quite the final I would have seen coming at the start of the week. Smit Toshniwal will be Unnati Hooda’s opponent for the women’s singles title
In the other women’s singles semifinal, world No. 163 Toshniwal upset fifth seed and higher-ranked Ashmita Chaliha, 21-19 10-21 21-17 in one hour one minute to set up a summit clash with Hooda.
Priyanshu Rajawat and Kiran George advanced to the final of the men’s singles event with contrasting wins.
While Rajawat wrapped up proceeding with a 21-17 21-14 straight game victory over Kauhsal Dharmamer in 36 minutes, Kiran had to dig deep and came from behind to win 19-21 21-12 21-14 against compatriot Ansal Yadav.
Rajawat produced a composed performance, dictating the tempo for large parts of that match. He has a mean backhand game, a bit of HS Prannoy about him and something that is not very common to see in the Indian circuit currently. Highly rated by many, he has been showing good signs without having a breakthrough and this could be a good breakthrough.
The men’s doubles pair of Ravikrishna PS and Sankar Prasad Udaykumar prevailed over compatriots Vasantha Kumar Ranganatha and Ashith Surya 21-12 18-21 21-18 to advance to the final. It was a really good day for the duo off the court as they were picked in a new look Badminton Asian Team Championships squad for India. They had also impressed with their performance against the experienced Malaysian combination of Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi at the India Open.
They will face Malayasians Nur Mohd Ayub Azriyn and Li Khim Wah, who notched a 15-21 21-18 21-17 over the Sri Lankan duo of Sachin Dias and Buweneka Goonethilleka, in the summit clash on Sunday.
Also sealing a finals berth was the eighth seed Indian women’s doubles duo of Sanyogita Ghorpade and Shruti Mishra with a 10-21 21-18 21-17 win over the Indo-American pairing of Srivedya Gurazada and Ishika Jaiswal.
They will take on the fifth seed pairing of Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand, who brushed aside compatriots Arul Bala Radhakrishnan and Nila Valluvan 21-9 21-6. Jolly and Gayatri have yet to drop more than 10 points in any of their matches.
The mixed doubles duo of MR Arjun and Treesa Jolly also advanced to the final with an easy 21-9 21-9 win over compatriots Balkeshari Yadav and Swetaparna Panda.
With the win, Arjun and Jolly set up a summit clash with the Sri Lankan pair of Sachin Dias and Thilini Hendahwa, who dispatched Indians Mauryan Kathiravan and Kuhan Balashri, 21-8 21-17 in little less than half an hour.
Here’s the lineup for Sunday’s matches (broadcast live on DD Sports):
Teams for Badminton Asia Team Championships:
Men: Singles: Lakshya Sen, Mithun Manjunath, Kiran George, Raghu MDoubles: PS Ravi Krishna/UdayKumar ShankarPrasad, Amsakarunan Hariharan/Ruban Kumar, Dingku Singh Konthoujam/Manjit Singh Khwairakpam
Women: Singles: Malvika Bansod, Aakarshi Kashyap, Ashmita Chaliha, Tara ShahDoubles: Simran Singhi/Khushi Gupta, V Nila/Arubala, Aarthi Sara Sunil/Riza Mahreen
With PTI inputs