South Asian Games: Shivani outclasses Sindhu in badminton

Shillong, Feb 10 (IANS) Eighteen-year-old Ruthvika Shivani Gadde earned plaudits at the 12th South Asian Games when she outclassed World No.12 P.V. Sindhu in straight games to clinch the gold in the badminton women’s singles final here on Wednesday.

Indian shuttlers made a clean sweep clinching seven gold and five silver medals in the multi-nation badminton event that came to an end on Wednesday.

Shivani, who picked up the racquet at the tender age of seven, made it to the final riding on a comfortable 21-5, 21-5 win over Nepal’s Nangsal Tamang, and eased past the experienced Sindhu 21-11 in the first game.

The second set brought the best out of both shuttlers, and despite trailing at one stage, Shivani rallied to take the set 22-20 to create the biggest upset of the Games.

“I was just focused on my game. Before stepping into the court, I had that nervous feeling given that she is a big player. But as the match wore on, I grew with confidence and forgot about the same and played my shots,” Shivani said.

“I had never won even a single set against her in the past. To beat her in straight sets, this was unexpected. But I am happy the way I played,” said Shivani, who is also a product of the Gopichand academy in Hyderabad along with Sindhu.

Elated with Shivani’s consistency and beating the world No.12, India’s coach Pullela Gopichand said: “Shivani is an exciting prospect. I hope she can continue to play with confidence at the higher levels of the game as well.”

In the women’s doubles, India’s doubles badminton specialist Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa eased past Mannesha Kukapalli and N. Sikki Reddy without much fuss to clinch the gold.

Though the higher ranked doubles duo was guilty of giving the opponents a chance to comeback in the second half, it did not have much impact on the final result which was 21-9, 21-17 in favour of Gutta-Ponnappa.

Maneesha-Reddy had rallied from being 9-16 down to make to 17-18.

In the men’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth rallied from a game down to beat H.S. Prannoy 11-21, 21-14, 21-6.

After the initial hiccup, India’s top-ranked shuttler among the men took control of the proceedings to register a comfortable 2-1 win and claim gold.

Manu Atri-Sumeeth Reddy also outsmarted Akshay Devalkar and Pranav Jerry Chopra in the men’s doubles 21-18, 21-17 to bag gold in their category.

In the mixed doubles, Chopra-Reddy won the mixed doubles competition after overcoming a strong challenge from Manu Atri and Ponnappa who went down 30-29, 21-17.

The Indians did not even drop a game until the final day when Prannoy trailed to Sri Lanka’s Sachin Dias in the first men’s singles semifinal of the day.

In the round of four, Sri lanka’s Sachin Dias put up a spirited show but eventually succumbed to Prannoy who edged past 14-21, 21-13, 21-16.

The women’s doubles pair of Maneesha Kukapalli and N. Sikki Reddy were also put to test by the Lankan pair of Achini Rathnasiri and Upuli Sumanthika who bagged the first game 21-12.

The Indian pair came back strong to take the next two sets 21-15, 21-16 to reach the finals.

The Pakistani pair of Kashif and Rizwan fought out one of the longest games of the event eventually going down to Akshay Dewalkar and Pranav Jerry Chopra 22-24, 16-21.

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