End of the road for India in team event

India's Saina Nehwal fought hard but couldn't overcome Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in the team event on Monday. AFP

India’s dreams of a medal from team badminton went up in smoke in the simmering cauldron called GBK Indoor Stadium on Monday.

In front of a wildly cheering home crowd, India went down 1-3 to Indonesia in the men’s team event in the quarterfinals. The women’s team too went out in the last-eight phase, losing 1-3 to Japan earlier in the day.

India had their chances against Indonesia in the men’s event. But Kidambi Srikanth and company failed to seize them even as their weaknesses in doubles came to haunt them in both the sections.

India needed Srikanth to show them the way but the former world number one was erratic in a 21-23, 22-20, 10-21 defeat to Anthony Ginting, pegging them back early.

The doubles pair of Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty then raised hopes of a comeback when they won the first game 21-19 against Indonesia’s Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo. But urged on by the capacity crowd, the hosts came storming back to take the next two 21-19, 21-16 to take an important 2-0 lead.

Needing a win to keep India alive, H S Prannoy survived some anxious moments but showed tremendous resolve and skill to dispatch Jonathan Christie 21-15, 19-21, 21-19 to make it 1-2.  But the end came swiftly for the Indians as Indonesia claimed the second doubles without much fuss.

Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy were no match for the Indonesian pair of  Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Arfianto who won 21-14, 21-16 to power their team to the semifinals with a 3-1 verdict.

The Indian women had faced a tougher opposition in top seeds Japan. P V Sindhu though gave India hope, dismissing Akane Yamaguchi  21-18, 21-19 in the opening singles. Sikki Reddy and Arathi Sara Sunil, however, were sent packing 21-15, 21-6 by Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, bringing things level.

And when Saina Nehwal lost 11-21, 25-23, 16-21 to Nozomi Okuhara in the second singles, a picture of gloom quickly began to take shape. Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi completed the dismal scene with a 21-13, 21-12 rout of Ashwini Ponnappa and Sindhu.

Given Japan’s strength in doubles, it was imperative for India to win both the singles but Saina was slow to get a grip on her game against Okuhara. The Japanese seemed to be running away with the match but Saina showed great resolve to fight back and take the second. She then blotted her book with a clutch of errors in the third game and that proved vital.

“I last played her in last year’s World Championships. She has improved and attacks much more. I took time to get used to her style. In the third game, I should have played more rallies instead of trying to finish off points quickly,” said a disappointed Saina.

Bronze medallists last time, India thus go empty-handed in women’s team event. The men’s team, who had better chances, too have nothing to show for and they now wait for the individual events to begin.

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End of the road for India in team event

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