Historic day for UAE as intense battles mark Day 3 at Badminton Asia Championship
Dubai: Teenagers Madhumitha and twins Dev and Dhiren Ayyappan etched UAE’s name in the record books on a historic day, giving the hosts their first wins as intense battles mark on Day 3 in the Blue Ocean Dubai 2023 Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships at Expo-City Dubai Exhibition Centre on Thursday.
UAE Badminton Federation chief Noura Al Jasmi summed up the feeling of the players, fans, officials and all those who are connected with the game. “I am thrilled. It’s the best day in my life, a golden day for UAE badminton,” said Al Jasmi after UAE produced a stunning show against Kazakhstan winning two of the five matches in their final Group B game, losing 3-2.
If it was the emotions that dominated the second day, adrenalin was flowing during day 3, that saw some stunning contests. India’s HS Prannoy wore down world No 4 Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia to give India a winning start, while PV Sindhu, who raced to the first set, had to fightback hard from 14-5 down to beat 21-13, 21-17 Wong Ling Ching in straight games.
Prannoy, world No 9, lost the first game 18-21. Supported by vociferous crowd, Prannoy rallied in the next two to win 21-13, 25-23 in their first meeting. After the game, the 30-year-old said it games like these that gave him the confidence in a year where there’s plenty at stake, including the Olympic qualifications. India won the contest 4-1 to book a quarter-final meeting with Hong Kong China.
“It was a very tight game, losing the first game and coming back in the next two was really tough. He is a top-five player, who has big hits and really difficult to defend against players like these. Overall, I am happy to win a close match. It gives me more confidence and it’s a big booster to team’s chances,” said 2018 Asian Championships gold medallist, who felt he was a bit rusty at the start of the tournament.
“It depends on how you are playing on a particular day. It keeps changing, but you have to be extremely consistent to beat these kind of players. So I would say my performance was better than the first game and things could get better as we go,” he added, thanking the crowd support. “I hope to see a packed stadium in the coming days.”
Stepping stone for success
Two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu, who is returning from an injury layoff, had a good workout that she felt will be the stepping stone for the rest of the year.
The tall Indian breezed to a 21-13 win in the first game, only to find her game falling apart in the second making some unforced errors, giving the Malaysian a big lead. Sindhu attributed the slide to her impatience. At 14-5, she regained her composure to make a stunning come back to win the game 21-17, conceding just three points on the way.
“I have gained a lot of confidence from this match. I was trailing 14-5 and from there I came back and won, that gives me a lot of confidence. I think we are 2-0 up and winning any one of the remaining matches will give us the victory. Obviously, we are hoping for the best draw in the knockout stage. I am happy I got a point to myself,” she added.
What happened in the second game?
Impatience costs dear
“I made too many unforced errors and court from this side was a bit faster. I was not patient. While I was hitting, she was defending well enough. After 14-5, I decided to be patient and take one point at a time. I kept getting one by one and I am happy now,” said the 2019 world champion.
“I have played matches, tournaments after coming back from injury. But this match gives me a lot of proof that I can do it again. It is a stepping stone for the next level,” she concluded.
Earlier in the day, Indonesia survived a scare against Thailand winning 3-2 after world No 2 Anthony Ginting losing to Sitthikom Thammasin in straight sets. Defending champions China too won by the same margin against Korea in the first match of the day.UAE
UAE's day out
But the day clearly belonged to Team UAE. Fifteen-year-old Madhumitha gave UAE the first in the Asia championship, defeating Kazakhstan’s Kamila Smagulova. 21-17, 21-13.
“I am really proud of my efforts. The last two matches were against the strongest teams in our group. We performed well, but the results were not in our favour. I am happy that we have got our first win and even happier that it came from me,” said the Grade 10 student of Indian Excellent School, Sharjah.
Talking about her journey, Madhumitha said though her dad gave her the option to pursue various sports, it was badminton that struck a chord in her.
Oscillating between doctor and a player
So what is the next target?
“Focusing on more international tournaments, but before that I have to complete my Grade 10 board exams, which is starting on February 20. Yes, I prepared well for this tournament, but no I have not prepared for the boards yet,” said the teenager with a smile.
UAE could have emerged victorious had Sanika Gaurav and Nayonika Rajesh won the marathon first game, which they lost 30-29. Sanika says it is due to the nerves and lack of experience.
“If we would have won the first game, it would have given us the confidence to play the second game. When it was 29-all, I felt the whole stadium was shaking. It’s different to what we were doing on the court and in the matches. It’s not the same,” said the Jumeriah College Grade 12 science stream student, who aims to become a doctor. “I want to help people, so want to become a doctor, but will have to see how to distribute my time.”
Twins Dev Ayyappan and Dhiren Ayyappan gave the UAE campaign a perfect finishing touch with a 21-13, 29-27 win over Dmitriy Panarin and Aisha Zhumabek in the final clash of the day.
“We were confident when we went entered the court. We saw how the court was behaving when the other two singles players played. We talked to our coaches we knew how to play. Today everything worked in our favour and we could play our game,” said Dhiren. The duo must have gained immense confidence with their strong show against India on Wednesday.
“Devastated that the team had lost, but definitely personally it feels great. Overall a good performance from the team and lot to learn from this tournament,” said Dev. In fact, the UAE players, with an average age of 15, have far excelled against stronger opponents, who have a proper league and a domestic structure. These players have made a huge leap in their standards and still managed to fly the UAE flag high.
In the quarter-finals, defending champions China will meet Malaysia, while Indonesia face Korea. Thailand meet Japan in the final last eight encounter on Friday.
Kazakhstan beat UAE 3-2
India beat Malaysia 4-1
China beat South Korea 3-2
Singapore beat Uzbekistan 5-0
Hong Kong China beat Pakistan 5-0
Indonesia beat Thailand 3-2
Japan beat Chinese Taipei 3-2
Bahrain beat Syria 3-2