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Ashmita, Isharani, Anmol shine as India women thrash Canada 4-1 in opener

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India’s young women’s team, despite lacking international experience, shone brightly as they defeated Canada 4-1 in the opening Group A tie of the Uber Cup in Chengdu, China, on Saturday.

Assam’s Ashmita Chaliha (24) and Isharani Baruah (20), and Manipur’s Priya Konjengbam (23) dazzled in India’s rollicking win. So did 17-year-old Anmol Kharb and Shruti Mishra (23). They never made Indians feel the absence of India’s most experienced shuttlers like PV Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa in the team.

Ashmita, Isharani and Anmol in women’s singles and Priya-Shruti in women’s doubles won their matches in straight games to register the win. The only hole India’s magnificent win was Simran Singhi and Ritka Thaker’s straight-game defeat.

Ashmita, leading the team as the most experienced singles player, registered a straight-game win over seasoned Canadian star and world no. 25 Michelle Li in a topsy-turvey battle.

Playing against a player, who beat India’s two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu three times, Ashmita got off to a slow start. She trailed 1-6, but the left-handed player would soon close the gap to 5-7, with a forehand winner and net kill.

Ashmita would soon ramp up her pace and claim a 9-8 lead after playing a beautiful reverse slice drop and crosscourt smash. Yet, Li would retain an 11-10 lead at the mid-game break.

From there onwards, it was a game where the lead continued to switch ends. At one point, Ashmita had a three-point lead at 18-15, but Li fought back to draw level at 20-20.

With battle well poised, the game went neck to beck – from 23-22 to 24-24 – before Ashmita prevailed 26-24 to gain the lead in the match.

The second game, too, was close with Li even claiming a crucial 19-17 lead, but Ashmita, displaying her fighting mettle, drew an error from Li after a rally to shift the momentum in her favour. She would quickly win the lead at 20-19.

The script of the first game followed in the second game too, with the game reading 20-20 and 21-21 before Ashmita broke the ice with a forehand smash to march onto the match point at 23-22. She would eventually triumph 24-22 to give India a 1-0 lead.

Priya-Shruti dwarf Choi-Chow

Priya and Shruti then doubled India’s lead. They did a commendable job by putting India 2-0 up in the tie. Playing in the absence of India’s top two men’s doubles pairings – Ashwini Ponnappa-Tanisha Crasto and Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, they showed little sign of nerves to beat Catherine Choi and Jeslyn Chow.

Priya and Shruti – India’s national champions – went up 11-3 in the opening game. Since Choi had to play the match without her regular doubles partner Josephine Wu, Priya and Shruti exploited the conditions.

Priyan-Shruti would quickly break away to a 19-7 lead.

The Indian duo played a high-intensity game. Yet, the Canadians found some rhythm in the backend, saving game points, but in the sixth game, Priya and Shruti clinched the game 21-11.

In the second game, Priya and Shruti maintained their momentum; they took a 5-2 lead against Choi-Chow. The Indian players employed shorter rallies to draw errors from the Canadians as they scored quick points.

From there onwards, it was almost a one-way traffic with Priya and Shruti going 17-8 up, and they would wrap up the match winning the second game 21-10.

Arrival of Isharani

With India going 2-0 up in the tie, youngster Isharani, another player of Assamese heritage, stepped up to play the second singles. She put up a dominating display despite making her first appearance on the big stage. The 20-year-old won the opening game (21-13) comfortably against Wen Yu Zhang.

In the second game, Isharani made world no. 44 Yu Zhang look so ordinary that she sealed the contest with a 21-13 win and gave India a decisive 3-0 lead, ensuring a win.

“First look at Ishani Baruhah at the big stage and have to say she looks to be extremely strong physically. Don’t remember the last time I saw a young Indian women’s singles player this physically strong. Steady movement solid base while defending,” coach Shlok Ramchandran would comment on X watching Isharani play.

Though Canada managed to pull one back, with Jackie Dent and Crystal Lai defeating Simran and Ritka 21-19, 21-15, Anmol, the standout player of India’s Badminton Asia Team Championships winning team in February, displayed her calibre again, playing in the final rubber as she did in the continental event, and healed Indians’ lone defeat with a commanding straight-game (21-15, 21-11) win over world no. 85 Eliana Zhang.

As a tougher contest awaits India against Singapore on Sunday, this 4-1 win over Singapore will help India soar in confidence before their biggest test against China, who lost to India in the Asia Championships.



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