Second seed Lakshya Sen reached the final of the Tata Open India International Challenge in Mumbai for the second straight year, and will take on junior world champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn for the third time this season on Sunday.
Sen had beaten Vitidsarn in the final of the Badminton Asia Junior Championships in July, but then lost to the Thai in the semi-finals of the BWF World Junior Championships last month.
The two 17-year-olds will lock horns again on Sunday, for the first time on the senior circuit, after winning their respective Tata Open semi-finals in contrasting fashion.
Sen was made to pay for some unforced errors on his part in the opening game of his semi-final against world No 192 Kantawat Leelavechabutr. Both shuttlers went on the attack from the beginning as the spectators at the Cricket Club of India’s courts were treated to some slam-bang badminton. A few too many errors by Sen towards the end of the game saw him lose it 17-21 to hand Kantawat the advantage.
However, it was a much smarter Sen who came out in the second game. He did not deviate from his aggressive style of play but instead was a lot more accurate with his smashes and brought forth a superb game at the net. Kantawat did not know what hit him as he lost the second game 21-9 and then the decider 21-12 without a fight.
Kunlavut then beat his compatriot and eighth seed Adulrach Namkul comfortably 21-10, 21-16 to seal a spot in his seventh final of the year, but first on the senior circuit. He has lost only one of the six finals on the junior circuit he reached this year – to Sen.
Sen isn’t the only Indian to make it through to the finals at the Tata Open. The women’s singles final on Sunday will be an all-Indian affair between Ashmita Chaliha and Vrushali Gummadi. Ashmita, who came through the qualifiers, beat fourth seed Chananchida Jucharoen 21-19, 21-19 in her semi-final, while Vrushali defeated third seed Mugdha Agrey 21-11, 21-12.
World No 32 pair and top seeds in women’s doubles, Poorvisha S Ram and Meghana Jakkampudi, defeated compatriots Arathi Sara Sunil and Rutaparna Panda in a thrilling semi-final 21-18, 9-21, 25-23. Arathi and Rutaparna, who started playing together in May this year, saved six match points in the decider but could not go any further.
Rounding up the Indian representation in the final are the scratch pair of Arjun MR and Sumeeth Reddy. Playing together only because their regular men’s doubles partners chose to skip the tournament for personal reasons, Arjun and Sumeeth surprised everyone by reaching the final of their first event together. They beat Thailand’s Tinn Isriyanett and Tanupat Viriyangkura 21-16, 20-22, 21-14 in the semis.