The Indian men’s badminton team got their title defence off to a positive start with a comfortable 4-1 win over Thailand in the Thomas and Uber Cup 2024 on Saturday, in Chengdu, China. The Indian women’s team meanwhile, came up with a 4-1 win as well, beating Canada in their opening match of the tournament.

The tie however, did not start well for the Indian men as the India No 1 HS Prannoy lost 20-22, 14-21 to reigning world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn. However, the Indian team was buoyed by a greater depth in squad compared to the Thai squad.

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But the defending champions did have to work hard to get back into the tie. World No 1 men’s doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty were stretched in the second match of the tie, but eventually managed to earn a 21-19, 19-21, 21-12 win over Peeratchai Sukphun and Pakkapon Teeraratsakul to make it 1-1 in the tie.

Lakshya Sen then beat Panitchaphon Teeraratsakul 21-12, 19-21, 21-16 to make it 2-1 for India before MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila sealed the tie with a 21-19, 21-15 win over Tanadon Punpanich and Wachirawit Sothon in the second doubles match to make it 3-1 for India.

Srikanth Kidambi, the former world No 1 then beat Saran Jamsri 21-9, 21-5 in a match that lasted 28 minutes.

Straight-forward win for women’s team

Earlier on Saturday, in their opening group stage match in the Uber Cup, the Indian women clinched a 4-1 win over Canada.

Ashmita Chaliha beat world No 25 Michelle Li while Isharani Baruah and Anmol Kharb also picked up wins for the Indian team.

Chaliha, ranked 53rd in the world, put on an impressive display to push Li to the limit in the opening game. Li held a slim lead of 11-10 going into the mid-interval break, but neither player managed to get a good hold on to the game. While Chaliha had a good chance to close out the game at 19-16, Li fought back and pushed to level at 19-all. However, despite the two players staying close to each other, Chaliha edged out Li 26-24 to win the first game.

The second game began in a similar fashion with both players exchanging serves throughout most of the game. This time round, Li held the lead for quite a bit until Chaliha won three points in a row to close out the second game 24-22 and give India a 1-0 lead.

In the second match, the doubles pairing of Priya Konjengbam and Shruti Mishra were both smart and dominating in their playing style. The Canadian pair of Catherine Choi and Jeslyn Chow didn’t have many answers for the Indian duo who employed smashes as their winners to take the second match 21-12, 21-10.

Youngster Isharani Baruah then effectively gave India the win for the tie when she beat Wen Yu Zhang in the third match of the tie. In the first game, Baruah was incredible in her playing style, dominating from the beginning as the Indian went on an eight-point winning streak to take the first game 21-13. The second game continued in a similar fashion as Baruah clinched the third match to beat Zhang 21-13, 21-12.

The only loss for India came in the second doubles match where Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker weren’t able to capitalise on a lead in the first game and ended up losing 19-21, 15-21 to Jackie Dent and Crystal Lai.

However, Anmol Kharb, the star of India’s title win at the 2023 Badminton Asia Championships, was calm and composed in her straight-games win against Eliana Zhang in the final match of the tie. The youngster needed only 33 minutes to clinch the match 21-15, 21-11 to complete the 4-1 win.