It was teenagers’ day out at Shri Shiv Chhatrapati Krida Sankul in Pune on Tuesday as Anupama Upadhyaya and the pair of Gayatri Gopichand-Treesa Jolly emerged winners of their categories at the 84th Senior National Badminton Championships.
Later in the men’s singles final, Mithun Manjunath prevailed in straight games against Priyanshu Rajawat.
Playing in the first final of the day, Upadhyaya was up against India No 3 Aakarshi Kashyap, who was one of the pre-tournament favourites given her impressive record in domestic events in the recent past. The 18-year-old was off to a confident start but Kashyap fought back well to take the lead in the match 22-20. Upadhyaya had a solid second game, more comfortable than the 21-17 scoreline suggested.
The decider saw the youngster take a good lead at the interval but Kashyap fought back after the change of ends and even had the first match point. But the former junior World No 1 Upadhyaya held her nerves to complete a 20-22, 21-17, 24-22 win in a 78-minute thriller.
Badminton: Meet Anupama Upadhyaya, the former junior world No 1 and now senior national champion
Later in the day, the teenage pairing of Gopichand-Jolly produced yet another dominant performance as they lived up to their billing of top seeds to win the national title in women’s doubles. They had tougher tests in earlier rounds and dropped just one game all tournament as they beat Kavya Gupta and Deepshikha Singh 21-10, 21-9 in just 29 minutes.
In men’s singles final, Mithun got the better of Rajawat in what turned out to be rather one-sided affair. Rajawat came into the title clash brimming with confidence after his impressive performances in the week but paid the price for being erratic early on. Mithun, who had defeated Srikanth Kidambi in the semifinal, was solid throughout and prevailed 21-16, 21-11.
The mixed doubles title went to Kanika Kanwal and Hemanagendra Babu. Men’s doubles title in a depleted field went to Kushal Raj and Prakash.
The women’s singles final was a topsy-turvy affair with both players fighting for every point.
The experienced Kashyap fought back from 11-15 in the opening game by winning seven of the next eight points and pocketed the game on second game point. But the reversal only made Upadhyaya more determined to go on the offensive as she began with a 3-0 lead in the second, extended it to 9-1 and then maintained the advantage to force the decider.
The 18-year-old from Haryana looked like running away with the title and prize purse of Rs 3.25 lakh when she opened up a 17-10 lead in the decider. But Kashyap wasn’t willing to give up.
The world No 42 engaged her opponent in long rallies and drew level at. 17-17 to set up an exciting finish and even earned a match point that Anupama saved with the shuttle tumbling over after hitting the net chord.
To her credit, Upadhyaya held her nerves under pressure, was aggressive when it mattered and pounced on the mistake her opponent made to register her first ever win over Kashyap to clinch the biggest title of her fledging career.
In the men’s final, Mithun’s superior defence and game strategy of not allowing Rajawat to get under the shuttle often meant that the Railways shuttler was always in control.
Both Mithun and Rajawat were a big cagey in the initial exchanges and the latter led 10-9 before the eventual champion clinched five straight points to take the lead and race to bag the game.
The second game turned into a lop-sided affair once Rajawat failed to find the winners and Mithun began getting more creative at the net.