India’s semifinal berth in Uber Cup came from an altogether unexpected quarter. In Thursday’s quarterfinal tie against Thailand, India suffered an early setback, when Saina Nehwal lost to Ratchanok Intanon in straight games. Though PV Sindhu and the doubles team of Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa gave India a 2-1 lead, there was no guarantee of India making it to the semifinal because they were fielding a rookie world no.119 Ruthvika Shivani Gadde for their third singles match and a scratch doubles combo of PV Sindhu/N Sikki Reddy for the second doubles match. The 19-year old Ruthvika was pitted against Nitchaon Jindapol, ranked 94 places above her but the little-known Indian held her nerves and played a match of her life to defeat Jindapol in straight games. Ruthvika’s victory took India to the Uber Cup semifinals without the need of playing the second doubles match. Other nations emerging as Uber Cup semifinalists on Thursday were; Korea, China and Japan. Korea defeated Indonesia 3-0, China defeated Taiwan 3-0 and Japan also beat Denmark 3-0. In Thomas Cup matches, hosts China lost 1-3 to Korea, defending champions Japan were beaten 3-2 by Denmark, Indonesia beat Hong Kong 3-1 and Malaysia reached semifinals by beating Taiwan 3-0.
It was a great day for Indian badminton fans as women’s Uber Cup squad sprang a surprise even after Saina Nehwal’s defeat against the current world no.2 Ratchanok Intanon. In the first match of their quarterfinal tie against Thailand, Saina Nehwal couldn’t hold herself against the power and confidence of Intanon. The Thai woman looked dominant for most part in her 21-12, 21-19 straight games victory over Saina. After the early setback, PV Sindhu leveled the tie score to 1-1 by easily defeating Busanan Ongbumrungphan 21-18, 21-7. India went 2-1 ahead, when Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa beat Puttita Supajirakul/Sapsiree Taerattanachai 21-19, 21-12 in the doubles match.
However, India’s badminton strength in women’s field is severely limited. Apart from Saina and Sindhu in singles and Jwala/Ashwini in doubles, no Indian singles or doubles players have made their names on the world scene. Therefore, the 2-1 lead didn’t guarantee the semifinal spot for India. At this juncture, no one could imagine that the next singles match will take India into semis. Ruthvika Shivani Gadde is not in the same league as Saina and Sindhu but didn’t show negative emotions as she came out to face world no.25 Nitchaon Jindapol. Playing the biggest match of her career, Ruthvika defied expectations and defeated Jindapol in two straight games 21-18, 21-16 as India marched into the semifinals of Uber Cup. Ruthvika demonstrated admirable composure, consistency and court-craft in extracting several unforced errors from Jindapol, who was crestfallen after her loss to the young Indian. In other Uber Cup quarterfinals, Korea defeated Indonesia 3-0, China defeated Taiwan 3-0 and Japan also beat Denmark 3-0.
In Thomas Cup quarterfinals, the biggest casualties were hosts China and defending champions Japan. China were laid low by Korea with world no.1 Chen Long losing to Son Wan Ho 12-21, 21-16, 12-21 and Korean doubles world champions Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong defeating China’s Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan 23-25, 23-21, 21-12. Though Lin Dan remained undefeated in his singles match against Lee Dong Keun to give China their only point, the final nail in coffin was driven by Korea’s doubles team of Kim Gi-Jung/Kim Sa-rang, who beat China’s Li Junhui/Zheng Siwei to take Korea into the semifinals. This was the first time in 37 years that China failed to make the semifinal grade in Thomas Cup. Defending champions Japan were done in by Denmark in hard-fought tie that was fully extended before Denmark pipped Japan 3-2. It all began with Viktor Axelsen defeating Sho Sasaki 21-13, 21-16. But Takuma Ueda leveled the tie score 1-1 by defeating Jan O Jorgensen in three games 21-13, 13-21, 21-10. Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding made it 2-1 for Denmark with the 21-16, 21-17 victory against Hiroyuki Endo/ Kenichi Hayakawa. The tie-score became 2-2, when the Japanese doubles team of Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda scored a 21-15, 21-17 victory over Kim Astrup Sorensen/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen. Now everything depended on the last singles match between Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Riichi Takeshita. As it transpired, Vittinghus defeated Takeshita 23-21, 21-17 and Denmark entered the semifinals to face Malaysia next.
On their part, Malaysia beat Taiwan 3-1 to enter the semifinals. Malaysia took 1-0 lead after Lee Chong Wei beat Chou Tien Chen 21-18, 21-18 but Taiwan drew level when their doubles team of Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin defeated Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong 16-21, 21-19, 21-19. With the tie level at 1-1, Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin produced a great performance in defeating Hsu Jen Hao 21-8, 21-13. Malaysia went through with the victory of their second doubles pair Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong, who defeated Taiwan’s Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin 21-16, 22-20.