Ashmita Chaliha stuns fifth seed Evgeniya Kosetskaya at India Open badminton tournament

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Trying to find her feet at the senior international circuit, Ashmita Chaliha was having a decent run in 2018 and 2019. With two titles — Dubai International Challenge and Tata Open — one semifinal appearance and three quarterfinal efforts during the aforementioned period, the youngster was getting what she needed in order to sustain and thrive at the elite level.

Her gradual development reflected in the BWF rankings and she had climbed to a career-high World No 77 in early 2020. But that’s when the Covid-19 pandemic happened, derailing her plans entirely.

Tournaments were few and far between with last-minute cancellations becoming a norm then. That obviously meant Chaliha’s momentum was halted. For someone at a transition phase (from junior to senior), it was like one step forward, two steps back after her earlier run. To make matters worse, she was also one of the unfortunate ones to catch the virus.

That had naturally taken a toll on her body. So, when she took the court for her opening match at the India Open — her second international meet since the Covid outbreak in 2020, it was a big moment for her. And she marked the occasion with an impressive display, beating World No 28 Evgeniya Kosetskaya of Russia in straight games ( 24-22, 21-16).

Chaliha was understandably was nervy during the game but after pocketing the tightly-contested first game, she put up a more polished display in the second essay to seal the contest.

“I haven’t played a lot of matches in the last few years. So, I was nervous and that affected me midway in the opening game. But once I won the first game, I was more confident and so I was relaxed in the second game,” Chaliha, who’s currently World No 84, said.

With this morale-boosting win, hopefully, she’ll kick on to get vital wins at the elite level under her belt. Her immediate test is France’s Yaelle Hoyaux. World No 71 Yaelle beat India’s Riya Mookerjee 21-14, 21-13.

Srikanth, Sindhu advance

World champion Loh Kean Yew was stretched to three games while home favourites Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu registered convincing victories. Loh got the better of Canada’s Xiaodong Sheng 16-21, 21-4, 21-13 while Srikanth beat Siril Verma 21-17, 21-10.

Earlier, top seed PV Sindhu hardly broke any sweat during her 21-5, 21-16 win over compatriot Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli in just under half an hour. “First match is always important and I did not take it easy. I went with the flow and finished it off,” Sindhu said after the match.

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