Former junior national champion Harsheel Dani created the biggest upset of the pre-quarterfinals at the 83rd Senior National badminton championship in Guwahati on Thursday when he packed off fourth seed and SaaLorLux Open champion Subhankar Dey in straight games.
The 22-year-old relied heavily on his booming smashes against world No 48 Dey, known for his retrieving abilities, to carve out a 21-15, 21-17 win in 43 minutes and set up a last-eight encounter against his academy-mate Kaushal Dharmamer, who got the better of Chirag Sen 14-21, 21-16, 21-17 in exactly an hour.
Dani, who had missed the last nationals due to an ankle surgery which kept him out for over six months, maintained an extremely high tempo throughout the encounter and caught his experienced opponent off guard with his net flicks and drives from the back court.
While Dani was making his mark at the main hall, the pre-quarterfinal proceedings were affected by the concerns over an uneven court on which the top players were supposed to play. The organisers, then, decided to shift the round of 16 matches involving Saina Nehwal, P Kashyap and B Sai Praneeth for evening session before which a makeshift court at the main stadium would be built.
Sindhu breezes past Bansod
Before that, two-time champion PV Sindhu began her quest for a third title with a 21-11, 21-13 win over Nagpur’s rising star Malvika Bansod to make the quarter-finals.
Men’s singles top seed Sameer Verma retired in the second game against Aryaman Tandon when leading 21-16, 1-8 due to an ankle strain.
In the other round of 16 singles clashes, Asian junior champion Lakshya Sen hardly broke a sweat in his 21-11, 21-8 demolition of Ansal Yadav while Sourabh Verma, a two-time winner, had a hassle-free 21-8, 21-15 win over Kartik Jindal.
In women’s singles, Assam’s Ashmita Chaliha needed three games to prevail over Vaidehi Choudhari 21-13, 15-21, 21-12. Third seed Shriyanshi Pardeshi blew away Deepshikha Singh 21-3, 21-7 while junior national champion Aakarshi Kashyap stunned former winner Rituparna Das 21-18, 21-12.
Maharashtra girl Neha Pandit continued her heroics with a 21-14, 21-13 victory over 2018 Tata Open quarter-finalist Anura Prabhudesai and her state-mate Vaishnavi Bhale got the better of Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka 21-13, 21-15.
In one of the most-awaited men’s doubles matches of the day, second seeds Chirag Shetty and Pranaav Jerry Chopra edged veterans V Diju and Rupesh Kumar 21-8, 18-21, 22-20 in a clash of generations to enter the semi-finals.
Diju and Rupesh, who are playing together at the Nationals for the first time, saved four match points in the decider but could not turn the tables on their much younger opponents.
While the top-seeded doubles teams in each section all safely made it to the semi-finals, Manu Attri and Maneesha K knocked out the second seeds Saurabh Sharma and Anoushka Parikh 21-10, 21-16 in mixed doubles.