Sankar Muthusamy defeated Thailand’s Panitchaphon Teeraratsakul in straight games (21-13, 21-15) to advance to the final of the BWF Junior World Championships in Santander on Saturday. The semifinal lasted for 40 minutes. Sankar aims to become the first Indian to win the gold medal after Saina Nehwal, who won the yellow metal in 2008.
The 18-year-old told Sportstar he is thrilled to make the summit clash in his maiden world juniors. “As you know, every match is tough. I am looking forward to the final.”
Sankar took just 16 minutes to win the first game. It was a closely-fought game until the interval, with Sankar leading 11-9. However, thereon, he did not allow Panitchaphon a comeback and pocketed the game with a jump smash.
A left-handed player with solid defence, Sankar kept Panitchaphon, also a southpaw, busy, sending down shuttles quickly.
At 8-8 in the second game, Sankar engaged the Thai shuttler in a 57-shot rally, which eventually forced the latter to swing wide. He went on to take an 11-8 lead at the interval.
Panitchaphon did try to create pressure on Sankar, who made a bad fall while trying to reach the shuttle. However, the Indian shuttler recovered and grabbed six consecutive points to make it 18-12. Panitchaphon took three points in a bid to make a turnaround. Sankar held his nerves and foiled Panitchaphon’s smashes with his impeccable defence and, in a counterattack, finished the match 21-15, grabbing three successive points.
Speaking about the game, Sankar said, “It was a tough match and not what the scoreline suggests. He (the Thai) is an attacking player and pretty good, too. But as I got better with my defence, he got frustrated and started to make errors.”
The second game lasted for 24 minutes.
Overall, he will be the fourth Indian shuttler to play the singles final in the last 14 years after Aparna Popat (1996), Saina and Siril Verma, who lost the final against Chinese Taipei’s Chia Hung Lu in 2015.
In the quarterfinals, the world junior no. 4 Indian beat Hu Zhen An of China 21-18, 8-21, 21-16 to assure himself a medal.
Sankar became only the 10th Indian to win a medal at the junior badminton world championships. Lakshya Sen was the last Indian to win a medal (bronze) in the event in 2018.
Saina Nehwal reached the final twice in 2006 and 2008 - when she won the gold medal. Aparna Popat was the other Indian to reach the final in 1996.
India has won one gold, three silver and five bronze medals in the history of the event.
In the final on Sunday, Sankar will take on Kuo Kuan-Lin of Chinese Taipei, who outlasted Kim Byung-Jae of South Korea 16-21, 21-10, 21-18 in the second semifinal.