Unnati Hooda and Kiran George registered contrastic victories to clinch the women’s and men’s singles titles respectively at the Odisha Open Super 100 badminton tournament in Cuttack on Sunday.

Teenager Hooda defeated compatriot Smit Toshniwal in straight games to claim the women’s singles title while unseeded George emerged triumphant in a hard-fought men’s singles final.
Producing an excellent performance to emerge triumphant in her event, the 14-year-old Unnati won 21-18 21-11 to be crowned champion in the inaugural edition of the $75,000 Odisha Open. She is now officially the youngest Indian to win a BWF World Tour event.

Giant-killer Hooda defeated Toshniwal 21-18, 21-11 in 35 minutes in the women’s singles final while Kiran got the better of Priyanshu Rajawat 21-15, 14-21, 21-18 in 58 minutes in the men’s category to end the three-event Indian leg in style.

Hooda, who was playing her second successive final on the senior national tour having reached the title clash in India International Challenge late last year, was a bit jittery at the start and conceded a sizable lead to Toshniwal in the opening game. But once she found her nerves, she began pushing her opponent to play longer rallies and slowly but surely clawed her way back.

The shuttler from Rohtak also employed the half smashes quite effectively to score points to pocket the opening game after taking the lead for the first time at 18-17. Hooda was the dominant player through-out the second game as she raced to a 17-4 lead. The youngster was guilty of dropping easy points from there on but the result was inevitable by then.

She capped off a brilliant week where she defeated a seeded top-100 player in Disha Gupta and then overcame title favourite Malvika Bansod as well. Toshniwal too pulled off an upset, knocking out Ashmita Chaliha, seeded five, 21-19, 10-21, 21-17, to set up the title clash with Unnati.

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Later, Kiran had to dig deep into his physical and mental reserves to beat Rajawat in a summit clash that swung both ways till the very end.

Kiran was first off the mark opening up a 9-5 lead in the opening game but Rajawat fought back to level the scores at 12-12. But the youngster could not maintain the tempo and the eventual champion nine of the next 12 points to pocket the game.

Rajawat had to play catch up at the start of the second game as well but he clinched eight straight points from 6-8 to open up a sizable lead and never looked back.

With the momentum firmly in favour of Rajawat, the 19-year-old was playing with confidence and verve at the start of the third and final game and took a 10-4 lead before Kiran staged a comeback.

Kiran went on the offensive as he didn’t have much to lose and came out on top as he bagged 12 of the next 14 points to take a 6-point lead. However, unforced errors cropped into his game just when he was looking comfortably on his way to victory.

That allowed Rajawat to first close the gap to 16-17 and then level scores at 18-18. However, Kiran had the final laugh as he clinched three straight points and the single’s champions trophy.

In the double’s category, Treesa Jolly missed out on double gold. She won the women’s doubles title but finished second in mixed doubles. Syed Modi International finalist, Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, defeated compatriots Sanyogita Ghorpade and Shruti Mishra 21-12, 21-10. Jolly and Gayatri had a dominant week, not dropping more than 10 points in any of the previous games before the final.

Earlier, Jolly and MR Arjun had gone down 16-21, 20-22 against Sri Lanka’s Sachin Dias and Thilini Hendahewa in the mixed doubles final.

In the men’s doubles final, Indian combination of PS Ravikrishna and Udayakumar Shankar Prasad could not build on their first game heroics and went down 18-21, 21-14, 21-16 against Malaysia’s Nur Mohd Azriyn and Khim Wah Lim.

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With PTI and BAI inputs