Thursday, May 19, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Rankings counted for little as a world No.119 came to India’s rescue against Thailand in the Uber Cup quarter-finals in the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2016 today.
Ruthvika Shivani, just 19, won a crucial third singles against Nitchaon Jindapol, ranked 94 places above her, to take India into the semi-finals. Shivani (featured image) walked in with India 2-1 up but needing her to win to avoid a difficult second doubles, in which the scratch combination of PV Sindhu and Sikki Reddy would be fielded.
In the Thomas Cup, former champions Malaysia and Indonesia both survived tough challenges from Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong in identical circumstances, while in the Uber Cup, Korea booked their semi-final place with a 3-0 rout of Indonesia.
Shivani showed admirable composure, staying consistent in the rallies and forcing Nitchaon into errors as she completed a 21-18 21-16 victory to help India repeat their semi-final performance from the last Uber Cup.
“I don’t know how I did it,” said Shivani. “This morning my coach told me to relax, that there was nothing to lose and no pressure on me.”
Earlier, India suffered an early setback with Saina Nehwal falling to the pristine form of Ratchanok Intanon in the opening singles: 21-12 21-19.
PV Sindhu stepped in for India against Busanan Ongbumrungphan, levelling the deficit with a 21-18 21-7 result.
The doubles pair of Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa blazed past Puttita Supajirakul/Sapsiree Taerattanachai 21-19 21-12 in just 39 minutes to set up the contest for India. The Indians had decided against experimenting, unlike in yesterday’s tie against Japan when Ponnappa partnered PV Sindhu.
“We did very well today to win in straight games. It was unfortunate that Saina lost to Ratchanok, but she was getting close in the second game,” said Gutta. “Yesterday, we decided to recombine our doubles as Japan’s top doubles pair is very strong. Still, we came close to taking the second doubles. Today it has worked very well so far. The feeling you get from playing for the team is hard to explain. It lifts you on court.”
Indonesia’s Thomas Cup team received a jolt in the second match when World champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan were outgunned by Hong Kong’s Or Chin Chung/Tang Chun Man. The Hong Kong pair made light of the vast gulf in rankings between the two, storming through 21-17 21-19. The result helped Hong Kong equalise the opening singles loss of Ng Ka Long to Tommy Sugiarto.
“The Hong Kong pair played well today, especially on the critical points, they always had us under pressure and we were not ready for that. Actually, our strategies were working, but our opponents just played better than us today,” said Setiawan.
Hong Kong would’ve sniffed an opportunity as they boasted of depth in the singles, but Indonesian youngster Jonatan Christie battled long and hard against veteran Hu Yun and eventually broke through, 21-14 18-21 21-16, in a 70-minute match. Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi did not blow the opportunity in the second doubles, emerging victors over Law Cheuk Him/Yeung Shing Choi 21-16 21-14.
“I felt pressure when Hong Kong made it one-call. And after we lost the first doubles, I felt like I had to motivate my team. I cleared my mind and acted like this was the first match and the score still 0-0.
“When it was 8-11 in the third, I heard the Hong Kong team cheering for Hu Yun. At that moment, somehow I felt motivated, I just want to prove that I can win. My coach said I shouldn’t think about the score, just focus and try to get point by point. I had the same situation like this before and I made it. So now I feel I can do it too.”
Christie’s crucial win for Indonesia was mirrored by Iskandar Zulkarnain for Malaysia against Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao. With the teams equal at one win apiece, Zulkarnain once again lifted himself just as he had done against Korea in the group stage. The Malaysian’s 21-8 21-13 victory gave the opening for Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong to push their way past Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin.
Korea’s women had little trouble beating Indonesia. Sung Ji Hyun and Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan breezed past Maria Febe Kusumastuti and Anggia Shitta Awanda/Greysia Polii. Bae Yeon Ju had a little more trouble from Fitriani Fitriani but made it home in just under an hour.