Dubai: Emotions ran high on Day two of the Blue Ocean Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship where the top seeds had an easy day at the office at the Expo-City Dubai Exhibition Centre on Wednesday.
It was a day to remember for the four-member Syrian team, who scored their first points in the continental championships with a 5-0 win over first-timers Lebanon to bring cheers to the country devastated by the massive earthquake.
Electrical engineering student
“We dedicate the victory to the people of Syria,” said Amjad Al Fassih, the 23-year-old Electrical Engineering student from Damascus University. The team also consists of 28-year-old mother Sanaa Mahmoud, 26-year-old Aljallad Ahmad, who lives in Bahrain, and the 15-year-old Ranim Al Hasbani. The four have been playing at least two matches each in every single encounter, going through a gruelling schedule on the opening day when they had to face Thailand and Indonesia.
The team members are happy to carry the Syrian flag and feel this struggle is nothing compared to what their fellow Syrians are going through currently.
It was a different kind of emotion for the UAE players and the Dubai-born Tanisha Crasto, who defeated her friends during India’s 5-0 win over UAE.
Dev Vishnu and twins Dev Ayyappan and Dhiren Ayyappan got the opportunity to play against their idols Lakshya Sen and Chirag Shetty.
Dev not only played against his idol but got off to a Sen-sational start, making the world No 11 work hard for the victory. The 16-year-old surged to a 12-8 and the 14-12 lead before the experienced Indian raced to 21-16, 21-12 win.
“I was very excited to play against Lakshya bhaiya. He is my idol and I have watched him play in India also. I often talk to him after his matches.”
Asked if he had a strategy playing against Sen, the 16-year-old UAE player said: “I planned to be smooth on court and keep the shuttle in play. I hope I can play better next time.”
Similar was the experience of teenage-twins Dev and Dhiren, who were still excited after losing to their idol Chirag Shetty, who partnered Dhruv Kapila, to win 21-15, 21-14.
“It’s a wonderful experience, Chirag Shetty is one of our idols. It was a wonderful opportunity given by the UAE Badminton Federation, to play as a team of UAE against our idols and scoring 15 and 14 points against them is an unbelievable feat for us,” said Dev, who is a Grade 12 Science stream student at Indian Academy, Dubai.
Once again it was watching their stars play in the BWF World Tour Finals seven years ago that sparked the fire in them to take up badminton. After initially playing in the singles, the duo decided to do something that they have been very good at, communication, and play doubles as a team.
So, how did they manage their studies?
“That’s the sacrifice we do. We train two hours in the morning, like fitness and multi-shuttle training. Then four hours in the evening, sparring with our coach Senthil and play games. The Rahhal programme has come as a big boon for us,” said Dhiren, who is in Grade 12 Commerce stream. Both are now waiting for this championship to finish to prepare for their board exams.
The exposure in this championship has sown the seeds for UAE players to dream bigger, to play in the World Championships and the Olympics.
Bigger challenge ahead
It was a day of mixed emotions for 19-year-old Tanisha, who beat her UAE friends in Group B encounter. Tanisha and Ishaan Bhatnagar breezed past Bharath Latheesh and Nayonika Rajesh in straight sets. India, after a second straight 5-0 win, will face the biggest challenge so far against Malaysia in the final Group B encounter on Thursday.
“So many mixed emotions as my friends, those with whom I train, were sitting on the other side. Of course, I have to be with Team India, that’s my team. I was really happy with the way the UAE players had performed so well. It’s very impressive to see them this way,” said Tanisha.
Talking about the bigger challenges ahead of Team India, Tanisha said: “Our team did well in fulfilling our duties in the earlier games. We are geared up for the tough match against Malaysia on Thursday. We hope to pull this one so that we get a better draw for the quarterfinals,” added the Dubai-born teen, who felt a bit excited after UAE got the chance to play in the Badminton Asia Championships, which should be a big boost to the game in region.
“It’s evident that their standards are high after doing extremely well against the experienced players. This performance should give them the boost to do much better in the future tournaments. It’s a good exposure and they must have learnt well from this tournament,” added Tanisha.
Singapore's hopes dented
Defending champions China dented Singapore’s hopes further after another 5-0 rout in their second Group A encounter.
China’s Lei Lan Xi had to rally from a set down to beat Jia Heng Jason 14-21, 21-19, 21-14.
“It was a tight match but very happy to win it. My goal is to score more points for my team,” said Lei after his victory. “It’s my first time in Dubai and it’s a good experience to play here.”
Indonesia started the day with a 5-0 win over Bahrain. Indonesia’s Pramudya Kusumawardana joined hands with Yeremia Erich Yoche Yacob Rambitan to win the mixed doubles match 21-3, 21-10.
“I am feeling happy and energetic. Bahrain played well,” said Kusumawardana, who is in awe of Dubai. “Every corner in Dubai is amazing.”
Group C: Indonesia vs. Bahrain 5-0
Group A: China vs. Singapore 5-0
Group A: Korea vs. Uzbekistan 5-0
Group C: Thailand vs. Lebanon 5-0
Group D: Japan vs. Hong Kong China 4-1
Group D: Chinese Taipei vs Pakistan 5-0
Group B: India vs United Arab Emirates 5-0
Group C: Thailand vs Bahrain 5-0
Group C: Syria vs Lebanon 5-0
Group B: Malaysia vs Kazakhstan 5-0
China vs Korea, 9am
Singapore vs Uzbekistan, 9am
Japan vs Chinese Taipei, 1pm
Hong Kong vs Pakistan, 1pm
Indonesia vs Thailand, 1pm
Bahrain vs Syria, 1pm
India vs Malaysia, 5pm
Kazakhstan vs UAE, 5pm