Grandmaster and former World junior champion Abhijeet Gupta has added another feather to his cap…
It was as close as it could get. Ernakulam’s Sneha Santhilal and Ashna Roy were on game point in each of the two sets against the India No. 5 M.H. Haritha and K.P. Sruthi in the women’s doubles, the inter-district trophy-decider, at the Kerala State senior badminton championship here on Saturday but each time they let the match slip through their fingers.
Ernakulam lost its steel when it mattered the most as Kozhikode hung on stubbornly, won the mixed team final 3-2, and retained the title at the one-court Diana Club, the championship’s main venue.
Niranjana Anil, the No. 2, had raised hopes of Ernakulam lifting the team trophy by jolting the top-seeded Agna Anto in the women’s singles and a little later, the seasoned pair of Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar defeated youngsters Muhammed Munawer and Sunjith in a thrilling men’s doubles as the series raced into the decider.
Both the singles featured the State’s top two players but while the men’s match where the State No. 1 Muhammed Munawer brushed aside Antony K. Jacob, was a quiet affair, the women’s singles was well fought.
Niranjana, a shade taller and a lot slimmer than Agna, had only one thing on her mind. She decided to move Agna, pushing her back with lobs and then forcing her to lunge forward with naughty drops, and then a little later she moved her opponent from side to side.
This strategy worked for a while but a little later, Agna targeted Niranjana’s weak backhand as she rallied from 3-7 to 10-10 in the second set. The Kozhikode top seed also has a stinging smash and this she used to good effect. In the end, Niranjana was forced to sweat, winning the tie only on her fourth match point.
The results (inter-district mixed team, final): Kozhikode bt Ernakulam 3-2 (S. Sunjith / K.P. Sruthi bt Rupesh Kumar / Sneha Santhilal 21-13, 21-23, 21-18; Muhammed Munawer bt Antony K. Jacob 21-14, 21-12; Agna Anto lost to Niranjana Anil 19-21, 24-26; Sunjith / Munawer lost to Sanave Thomas / Rupesh Kumar 22-24, 15-21; K.P. Sruthi / M.H. Haritha bt Sneha Santhilal / Ashna Roy 22-20, 24-22).