Shuttler Parupalli Kashyap created history by becoming the first Indian male to enter the singles quarter-finals at the Olympics, when he defeated Sri Lankan Niluka Karunaratne in three games here yesterday.
Kashyap won a tough match 21-14, 15-21, 21-9, in one hour and six minutes at the Wembley Arena. The previous best performance was by Dipankar Bhattarcharjee in the 1992 Barcelona Games, where he lost the third round to Chinese Zhao Jianhua.
Delighted: P Kashyap kisses his India jersey after beating SL’s Niluka Karunaratne yesterday. PIC/AFP
It was a topsy-turvy match. To start with, Kashyap was rattled by the Lankan, who attacked his way to a 6-1 lead. The Hyderabadi fought back to make it 7-7 and slowly his World No 48 opponent began losing momentum.
Kashyap found his touch and quickly jumped to a 15-10 lead. There were not many long rallies and with some fine returns he moved to 19-14. Then, a couple of smart backhand flicks saw Kashyap clinch Game One in 20 minutes.
Karunaratne, who earlier upset eighth seeded Kenichi Tago in his group match, again took a 11-3 lead at the break. This time he made sure he did not give his opponent a window to stage a comeback and closed Game Two at 21-15.
Mid-way through the game however, the Lankan was spoken to by the umpire for his on-court antics after winning every point. Thereafter, his war dance was missing in the decider. It was a neck-to-neck fight till five-all in the third game before Kashyap took off. With his court-craft and deft work at the net, he steadily built up a handy lead (12-6).
From then on, there was no stopping the Pullela Gopichand protege. Kashyap now faces a tougher challenge in the last eight as he will either meet top seed and Beijing Games silver medallist Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia.
“I began well but then slipped up a bit in the second game. But I wanted to continue playing aggressively and I’m glad that I did just that and it paid off in the third and final game,” said the Indian after his well deserved win.