HANGZHOU: The ammunition depot of India’s Asian Games contingent shifted from shooting to racquet sports on Saturday when ‘comebacks’ became the underlying theme of two gold medals and some stellar wins amplified the roar towards the podium.
A gold medal each in tennis and squash headlined India’s performance in racquet sports, while the Mukherjees, Ayhika and Sutirtha, stunned the world No. 1 Chinese pair on home soil to confirm themselves a historic medal by entering the semifinals of women’s team event in table tennis.
Another piece of history is in the making on the badminton courts, where Kidambi Srikanth‘s rally in the decider put India into the men’s team final, earning a maiden shot at Asian Games gold in the event. All roads in Hangzhou will lead to the badminton arena on Sunday where Indian shuttlers will hope to emulate the shooters in giving China a run for their money.
After China with 13 gold and 24 medals so far, India are currently ranked second on the shooting medals tally with 6 gold and 19 medals in all. In other words 50% of India’s 38 medals until the end of action September 30 have come from the shooting ranges.
The loudest cheers, dramatic scenes and tense moments were witnessed behind the Main Media Centre here, a part of which is the makeshift squash venue for the Games. It didn’t have a seat on offer for the India vs Pakistan men’s team final, which turned out to be a contest not for the faint-hearted.
With Pakistan flags in the hands of Chinese spectators in the stands, the support was unsurprising, but Abhay Singh had the last laugh.
Saurav Ghosal had levelled the best-of-three final at 1-1 with a storming 11-5, 11-1, 11-3 win over Pakistan’s Muhammad Asim Khan, after Mahesh Mangaonkar’s defeat in the opener.

(Reuters photo)
It was then left to Abhay, who was pitted against Noor Zaman — the grandson of Pakistan great Qamar Zaman, the 1975 British Open champion.
The decider went the distance, with Zaman putting Pakistan one point away from a gold medal. Abhay, staring at Pakistan’s two match points, summoned every ounce of his will power and energy to turn the tables.


(PTI photo)
Down 8-10 in the fifth game of the third match, he won three points on the trot as the arena erupted.
“This one is for a billion plus Indians,” said Abhay. There was a fair amount of noise three nights ago when we lost to Malaysia and I am pretty sure I won’t hear anything now.”
Abhay was on the verge of quitting the sport after the Covid era, when results weren’t going his way. He will be glad he didn’t travel down that road as he was seen teary-eyed while sending a message to his parents after the match.

Happy to be standing on the podium: Joshna Chinappa

Rohan Bopanna signed off what will be his last appearance at the Asian Games with a gold medal in mixed doubles, alongside Rutuja Bhosale.
The India duo rallied from a set down to level it at 2-6, 6-3 and then won the race-to-10 tiebreaker 10-4 to beat the Chinese Taipei team of Tsung-hao Huang and En-shuo Liang.


(AFP photo)
It will be India’s only gold medal in Hangzhou from tennis, besides the silver medal won by the men’s doubles team of Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan.
“I don’t think I will be coming back to the Asian Games again,” said the 43-year-old Bopanna. “It’s nice to finish my Asian Games career on a high with mixed doubles gold.”
Rutuja, who is 16 years younger than Bopanna, was glad that he had a mentor on the court who guided her through the match.

Crowd was against us but we played great tennis: Rohan Bopanna

“I was nervous at the start and missed some easy returns. Rohan set me up nicely but I failed to make shots that are otherwise my strength. I am glad Rohan carried me through the match using all his experience,” said the 27-year-old.
To beat the reigning world champions in ping-pong takes some doing, and while the Indian fans were mostly watching the medal matches in other disciplines, the Indian women’s doubles team of Ayhika and Sutirtha were securing a historic medal for India at the expense of China’s Meng Chen and Yidi Wang.
Dominating the world champs, the Indian duo prevailed 11-5, 11-5, 5-11, 11-9 to move into the semifinals.


(AFP photo)
Ranked world No. 16, Ayhika and Sutirtha assured India of their first ever medal in women’s doubles at the Asian Games and will face North Korea’s Suyong Cha and Sugyong Pak in the semis.
“They (the Chinese pair) are the world’s best, but we were at our best,” said Ayhika after the historic triumph. “We were not scared at all.”
The atmosphere inside the table tennis hall is expectedly one of the most electric across Asian Games venues, but the Indian pair held their nerve.
“We were enjoying it. It’s always great to play (against) China, and it’s always great to play in China. The level is so high here,” Ayhika added.
The Indian men’s badminton team entered its first ever final of the Asian Games, as Kidambi Srikanth brought his experience into play to win a thrilling decider against the South Koreans for a 3-2 victory.
By entering the semis, India had already ensured themselves a first medal in the event in 37 years.


(PTI photo)
HS Prannoy gave India the opening victory by erasing a one-game deficit to beat Jeon Hyeok Jin 18-21, 21-16, 21-19.
But India’s star doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty lost to the world champion duo of Seo Seung-Jae and Kang Min-hyuk 13-21, 24-26.
Lakshya Sen then breezed through the next singles match, beating Lee Yungyu 21-7, 21-9. But India faced defeat in the doubles rubber once again, as MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila lost 16-21, 11-21 to Kim Wonho and NA Sungseung.
It tied the semifinal at 2-2, until Srikanth came to the party to ensure India a shot at gold against the formidable hosts.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *