Dubai: When the stakes are high, it is better to keep it simple and stay at the present. The 101-ranked Chinese Gao Fang Jie didn’t do anything fancy to catch two-time Olympic medallist on the wrong foot in a stunning display of smart badminton in the Blue Ocean Dubai 2023 Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship at the Expo-City Dubai Exhibition Centre on Saturday.
The Indian supporters might have gone home dejected after India lost the semi-finals 3-2 against the defending champions, but they must have been pleased to watch high-voltage clash. Trailing 2-0, Team India had to once again dig deep to level the scores 2-2 and of Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto’s loss to Chinese mixed doubles pair, Jiang Zhen Bang and Wei Ya Xin, ensured that the team went home with the bronze, first medal in the Badminton Asia Championship.
India were in a similar situation against Hong Kong China on Friday, before producing a stunning come back to victory. But in the semi-finals they just fell short of their target against a superior Chinese team.
Earlier in the day, Korea eased past Thailand 3-1 to book a meeting with China in Sunday’s final.
Easy game for us
After H.S. Prannoy and Sindhu lost the first two clashes, it was once again in the hands of the doubles pairing of Chirag Shetty and Dhruv Kapila to keep India in the run. They did that by matching the Chinese duo and Shetty orchestrating the fight back after trailing 12-6 in the first game.
“Actually it was an easy game for us, but making simple mistakes. We didn’t have to move so much as they are hitting straight at us. The crowd support was unbelievable,” said Kapila, while Shetty added: “Tactically we changed the game. It is difficult to compete with them if we play their style of game. So changed our game the way we wanted to play. Small changes but completely changed the course of the match.”
Then it was left once again to the young shoulders of Gayathri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly to give India the crucial win and they duly did it after surviving some anxious moments towards the final game, where they allowed a six-point advantage to slip before clawing their way to victory.
One point at a time
But the biggest show was produced by Gao, who didn’t exert too much and kept the balls low to negate the height advantage of Sindhu. Gao used the angles to perfection, especially her reverse flick from the left corner, which got Sindhu napping many a time. When the Chinese was at the net, she was even more dangerous finding acute angles to score the points.
“Olympic gold is my ultimate dream, but I am focusing on present as each and every tournament will create the pathway for the Olympics. We should have dreams, but we should focus on present day,” said Gao, adding that she was mentally and physically prepared to tackle Sindhu on the day. “I don’t think too much on tactics and defence. I focus on one point at a time,” Gao added.
Earlier, South Korea rallied from a match down to defeat Thailand 3-1 in the first semi-finals and move closer to the target of winning the title, which they have been aiming for since they started their campaign earlier this week.
After losing their men’s singles match, Kim Ga Eun, Kim Won Ho and Na Sung Seung and Jeong Na Eun and Lee So Hee stepped up to win their respective rubbers and propel the 2017 runners-up into the final. Korea had lost to Japan 0-3 in the final.
“We are proud to get the winning points for our team. We are playing together for the first time. It wasn’t an easy match. They are good players and we just focused step by step,” said Jeong who paired with Lee to sealed the tie for Korea with 21-9, 21-7 win over Thailand’s Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard.
Korea coach Sung Ji Hyun said performing well was important at the Dubai 2023 championships for the team’s confidence.
“We are targeting the title of this Championships tomorrow. I am happy with the way our players have played. They have executed their game in the way we have planned,” said the coach, adding that they are also focused on regain the Sudirman Cup title in May 2023.
I will be back to my best soon, says P.V. Sindhu
Indian ace P.V. Sindhu might have lost to 101-ranked Chinese Gao Fang Jie, but the two-time Olympic gold medallist feels confident about her game and has vowed to get back to her best soon.
“It was good comeback from my injury and played some good games. It takes some time to get into my rhythm, but slowly I am getting there,” said the 2019 world champion said after losing in three sets to her Chinese opponent for the second time in her career.
“I had played her four or five years ago and I lost that game. Winning and losing is part of life, but with this confidence I hope to move further. I will be on track very soon.”
In an exciting close match, at 18-all in the third game, Sindhu hit the net and another drop shot from the left corner by Gao sealed the match in the Chinese’s favour, leaving India perilously close to exit.
“It was a good game with long rallies. At 18-all it was anybody’s game and I gave her a chance to attack. That’s what I felt,” said the 27-year-old, who is returning from a four-month injury layoff.
“I had my chances to win, but she was not making any errors and her defence also was good. It was her day,” Sindhu concluded.
China beat India 3-2
Lan Xilei (China) beat HS Prannoy (India) 21-13, 21-15.
Fang Jie Gao (China) beat PV Sindhu (India) 21-9, 16-21, 21-18.
Dhruv Kapila/Chirag Shetty (India) beat Ji Ting He/Hao Dong Zhou (China) 21-19, 21-19.
Gayatri Gopichand/Treesa Jolly (India) beat Sheng Shu Liu/Ning Tan (China) 21-18, 13-21, 21-19.
Zhen Bang Jiang/Ya Xin Wei (China) beat Ishaan Bhatnagar/Tanisha Crasto 21-17, 21-13.
South Korea beat Thailand 3-1
Sitthikom Thammasin (Thailand) beat Geonyeop Cho (South Korea) 25-23, 19-21, 21-12.
Ga Yun Kim (South Korea) beat Supanida Katethong (Thailand) 21-15, 21-12.
Won Ho Kim/Sung Seong Na (South Korea) beat Pharaynyu Kaosamaang/Worrapol Thingsa-Na (Thailand) 21-13, 21-11.
Na Eun Jeong/So Hee Lee (South Korea) beat Benyapa Aimsaard/Nuntakarn Aimsaard (Thailand) 21-9, 21-7.