Indian women’s team, who routed Singapore 5-0 in their first match yesterday, suffered a heavy defeat on Thursday losing 0-5 to Japan in the Badminton Asia Team Championships at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad. With the loss, India will go into the quarter-final as the second placed team from Group WD.
Indian team went into the match against Japan oozing with confidence after their 5-0 thrashing of Singapore yesterday and hoped for an upset victory against a superior Japan team, which included Nozomi Okuhara, who won the title at Dubai BWF Super Series final last year.
In the first women’s singles match of the evening, World No.12 PV Sindhu took on World No.8 Nozomi Okuhara, who had a 2-1 head to head, record against the Indian. The Japanese shuttler had the better start to the match by snatching a 9-6 lead in the first game. However, Sindhu won five consecutive points to go into the break with an 11-9 lead and dominated the game from there on to take it 21-18.
But Sindhu’s good fortunes took a tumble in the second game with Okuhara easily winning the second game 21-12 to level things up in the match. The third and the final game followed a similar story as the second with Sindhu surrendering the points to the Japanese shuttler. Okuhara raced ahead of the Indian and pocketed the final game 21-12 to finish the match, which lasted more than an hour.
PC Thulasi took on Sayaka Sato in the second women’s singles match of the evening. Sato, ranked no.13th in the world, had a tough game against the Indian, who ranked almost 100 places below the Japanese shuttler. Thulasi made a good start to the match by leading from the start and looked set for an easy victory in the first game after leading 19-12. But an unbelievable comeback from Sato crushed India’s hopes as she scored eight consecutive points to take the lead. Thulasi did her best by saving two game points to stay in the game, only to finally surrender it 22-24 after missing a chance to finish the game herself.
A close loss in the first game affected Thulasi in the second game, and she looked nowhere near her performance in the first as she went down tamely to Sato 21-14 to give Japan a 2-0 lead.
18-year old youngster Ruthvika Shivani Gadde, who recently won the gold medal in the South Asian Games, took on World No.16 Yui Hashimoto in the third women’s singles match of the evening and almost pulled off an upset by winning the first game 25-23. The youngster accumulated five quick points in the initial minutes to make a brilliant start to the match, but her higher-ranked opponent slowly found her grip in the match and levelled the points at 10-10 before the break.
The Indian continued her good run after the break and reached the cusp of pocketing the first game by taking a 20-17 lead. However, the inexperience of the Indian came to the fore as she wasted five-game points to allow the Japanese shuttler a foot in the door. But with Hashimoto also squandering her opportunity, Ruthvika finally cashed in on her sixth game point and won it 25-23.
But the second and the third game turned out to be a totally different story as Hashimoto asserted her superior ranking by totally outclassing the Indian youngster. Sato won both the games with an identical score of 21-14 to give Japan an unassailable 3-0 lead in the match.
With all five matches being played in the group stages, the two women’s doubles pairs also took the court and suffered the same fate as their singles counterparts. Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa were defeated by Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi 12-21, 14-21 while Mami Naito/ Shizuka Matsuo defeated PV Sindhu and Sikki Reddy 18-21, 21-11, 21-16.
With one win and one loss in two matches, India entered the quarter-final as the second-placed team from Group WD and will take on one of the top-placed teams from the other three groups on Friday.
(Also Read: Kidambi Srikanth: raising India's Olympic hopes)