The Indian women’s badminton team’s Uber Cup 2018 campaign came to an early end on Wednesday as Japan thrashed them 5-0 in their final tie of the group.
India needed to beat Japan to stand a chance of making the quarter-finals after losing to Canada in the opener but could not win a single match in the best-of-five tie.
Saina Nehwal, ranked 10th in the world, had the best chance of getting India on the scorecard as she took on the world No 2 Akane Yamaguchi in the first singles match.
Yamaguchi started off the stronger of the two shuttlers and raced to a 19-12 lead in the first game, before Nehwal switched on and won seven of the next eight points to reduce the gap to 20-19. Yamaguchi managed to close out the game 21-19 but the momentum was with Nehwal, which she carried into the second game.
Nehwal was completely on top of Yamaguchi in the second game as she kept the Japanese moving and unleashed a smash for the kill. From a lead of 12-9, Nehwal won nine straight points to take the match into a decider. The Indian was also helped by playing on the side of the court that was most conducive to the drift in the arena.
It was more of the same in the third game as Nehwal continued to control the rallies. After the players switched ends, with Nehwal leading 11-8, Yamaguchi tried to change her pace and got a lot more aggressive but that could not stop Nehwal from grabbing four match points at 20-16.
The match seemed to be in Nehwal’s pocket but she incredibly lost the next six points on the trot as Yamaguchi snatched the victory away. The world No 2 won 21-19, 9-21, 22-20 to give Japan a 1-0 lead.
The rest of the Indians stood no chance against the much higher-ranked opponents. Sanyogita Ghorpade and Prajakta Sawant conceded their doubles match 15-21, 6-21 to world No 4 pair Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, before world champion Nozomi Okuhara put the tie out of India’s reach by beating the 16-year-old Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka 21-10, 21-13.
J Meghana then had to team up with the rookie Vaishnavi Bhale for the second doubles match as her regular partner Poorvisha S Ram had skipped the match on account of being under the weather. Meghana and Vaishnavi lost to the world No 5 pair Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto 8-21, 17-21.
World No 17 Sayaka Takahashi then helped Japan complete the 5-0 rout as she beat the 115th-ranked Anura Prabhudesai 21-12, 21-7 in the third singles match. India were never expected to beat Japan but the lack of fight shown – except Nehwal – was disappointing.
The Indian men’s team on Tuesday had shown tremendous resolve in their final Thomas Cup group match against nine-time champions China, which was not reflected in the 0-5 scoreline. None of that passion was visible in the women.
India thereby exited the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals after the group stage. Japan and Canada progressed to the quarter-finals from Group A.