Parupalli Kashyap etched his name firmly in the history books by becoming the first Indian male shuttler in 32 years to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, but women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had to settle for a silver, in Glasgow on Sunday.
A bronze-medallist at the Delhi Games, Kashyap rose to the occasion and played a sensational game of nerves to eke out a breath-taking 21-14 11-21 21-19 triumph over Derek Wong of Singapore in the final showdown, which lasted over an hour.
The 27-year-old from Hyderabad thus joined badminton legend Prakash Padukone and the late Syed Modi, who had won the title in the past. While Padukone had won the men’s singles gold medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Canada, Modi retained it four years later.
However, 2010 gold medallists Jwala and Ashwini failed to recreate the same magic as their title defence lay in tatters after a 17-21 21-23 defeat against World No. 18 Malaysian combo of Vivian Kah Mun Hoo and Khe Wei Woon in the 41-minute summit clash at the Emirates Arena.
Nonetheless, the silver medal is yet another feather in the caps of Jwala and Ashwini who had clinched the 2011 World Championship bronze and also bagged the bronze at the Asian Badminton Championship in April this year.
It turned out to be a red letter day for World No. 22 Kashyap who bagged the biggest title of his career. He had reached the quarterfinals of the London Olympics and won the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in 2012.
Up against a tricky player, Wong, who was immaculate with his court coverage and wrist play, Kashyap was rewarded for his relentless never give up attitude.
In the first game, Kashyap was leading 14-8 before Wong came back with the help of some precise smashes to gather four straight points. But the Indian soon turned the tables.
Kashyap put pressure on his opponent and gathered few points at the net to reach 18-12. 12. Soon he garnered seven game points after Wong’s return got buried into the nets.
An inaccurate down-the-line smash from Kashyap helped Wong save one game point but the Indian soon wrapped it up with another jump smash to earn the bragging rights.
Not ready to take it lying down, Wong changed his gameplan and started penetrating the defence of Kashyap to lead 11-6 at the interval. Kashyap committed too many unforced errors while Wong stepped up to move to 15-8.
In the end, a down-the-line smash from Wong and a few wide shots helped the Malaysian make a roaring comeback into the contest.
Back to his winning court, Kashyap started the decider on a positive note. His smashes were more accurate and he judged the shuttle well.
But still he found it tough to break the defence of Wong, who used his tricky deceptive shots, better court coverage and better net play to lead 11-8.
After the interval, Kashyap narrowed the lead to 11-12.
At 13-11, the duo engaged in a long aggressive rally, which the Indian won, amid loud cheers from the fans.
Kashyap soon drew level at 14-14 when Wong found the net and then surged ahead with a bodyline smash. The Indian stepped up the attack and engaged in a fast-paced rally, which ended with Wong hitting long.
Wong found the net again and Kashyap earned a point with a cross-court smash to move to 19-16. The Malaysian, however, soon rubbed off the deficit with a three-point burst but he hit long and wide next as Kashyap burst into celebration.
Ashwini was specially not in her elements as the Indian failed to connect her strokes, which saw the shuttles going wide and long, resulting in a lot of points for their Malaysian rivals.
The match between the two pairs — separated by just three ranking points — was a rollercoaster ride right from the start as the Malaysian combo could only earn a narrow 11-10 lead at the first interval.
Ashwini’s deceptive flicks earned India a couple of points after the breather but unforced errors by the Indian and a mistake at the net by Jwala helped Hoo and Woon drew level at 16-16.[IE]