Women's shuttlers edge out Thailand 3-2 to reach semis and end India's Asiad drought
Incheon: India ended a 28-year-old medal drought in Asian Games badminton after the women's shuttlers, led by Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu, edged out Thailand 3-2 to reach the semi-finals of the women's team event, here on Saturday.
PV Sindhu (right) and Ashwini Ponnappa during their quarter-final match against Thailand
After Saina and Sindhu registered hard-fought victories in the first two singles, scratch combination of Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa finally earned India the medal after they clinched the final women's doubles match.
World No 7 Saina gave the team a fine start though after a tough 67-minute struggle against Thai No 1 and 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon which was capitalised upon by Sindhu, who put her team 2-0 in front in the best-of-five rubber by defeating Porntip Buranaprasertsuk.
But the weakness in India's doubles play and third singles came to the fore as the Thais fought themselves back into reckoning by drawing level and forced the decider. The Thais won the third singles, when Ongbamrungphan Busanan easily defeated India's P C Thulasi, and then clinched the first doubles too to draw level at 2-2.
It was then left to Sindhu and Ashwini, who won the deciding rubber in a tense match against Sapsiree Taerattanchai and Sasalee Thoungthongkam to pilot India into the last four stage after a four hour and 15 minute battle.
India will meet South Korea today in the semis after the hosts defeated Chinese Taipei in another quarter-final tie. India's last medal of any hue in badminton had come in 1986 when the men's team claimed bronze.
Ever since badminton made its debut in the Asiad in 1966, India have managed just seven bronze medals with Syed Modi being the only singles medallist in 1982.
India men's humiliated
However, the men's team was outplayed by Korea 0-3. K Srikanth and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Parupalli Kashyap went down in contrasting fashions while the doubles team of Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri also failed to come good.
The Indian badminton team, which had arrived at the Gyeyang Gymkhana far away from the Athletes Village early on Saturday morning, was left stranded after the conclusion of the women's quarter-finals match against Thailand late in the night as the driver of the bus which was to ferry them back went missing. The entire team was waiting for the bus to leave at 10:50 pm local time but till half an hour later, the bus did not commence its journey putting the tired players and officials on tenterhooks.