Badminton Nationals: Sindhu beats spirited Ashmita Chaliha, storms into final, to meet Saina

Sindhu had to claw her way back from 16-19 down in the second game and needed two match points to douse the challenge of the spirited fourth seed Ashmita Chaliha 21-10, 22-20.

P.V. Sindhu's vast experience came in handy as she beat Assam wonderkid Ashmita Chaliha to storm into the final of the Senior Badminton National Championship on Friday.   -  Special Arrangement

P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal won their respective semifinals in contrasting fashion to set up a mouth-watering women’s singles summit showdown at the 83rd Yonex-Sunrise Senior National Championship here Saturday.

In a repeat of last edition’s title clash at Nagpur, the two stalwarts will look to outdo each other and write another chapter in their on-field rivalry.

While Sindhu overcame a challenge from Assam’s promising 19-year-old Ashmita Chaliha 21-10 22-20 in the first semifinal, Saina got the better of Nagpur qualifier Vaishnavi Bhale, who was part of India’s Uber Cup squad last year, 21-15 21-14 to storm into the finals.

The two-time champion, Sindhu, had to claw her way back from 16-19 down in the second game and needed two match points to douse the challenge of the spirited fourth seed Chaliha 21-10, 22-20.

Related: Sindhu positive about India's chances at All England

The 19-year-old girl from Assam had already announced her arrival last year with BWF titles at the Dubai International Challenge and the Tata Open.

On Friday, she gave yet another display of her immense talent when she steadied her nerves and got back into contention from an 8-13 deficit in the second game.

Egged on by the motley crowd, the fearless girl drew level at 13-13 and jumped into a 17-14 lead against the Rio Olympic silver medallist before advancing to 19-16.

That’s where Sindhu’s vast experience came in handy and she evened the score at 19-19 to have a match point at 20-19.

But the resilient Ashmita was not done yet and she saved the first match point only to see her World No. 6 opponent wrap it up on her second in 38 minutes.

Ashmita Chaliha put up a spirited fight against P.V. Sindhu in the semifinal of the Senior National Badminton Championship.   -  Special Arrangement

Saina vs Sindhu

Saina had the last laugh against Sindhu in the last two encounters at the Nagpur Nationals in 2017 and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games gold-medal match last year.

While Saina has won the title in 2006, 2007 and 2018, Sindhu clinched the trophy twice, in 2011 and 2013.

“It will be just another match and I don’t think it will help me for All England, I will just look to focus and give my best,” Sindhu said about the final.

Two-time former champion Sourabh Varma, 26, too sealed his spot in the men’s singles final after beating Mumbai’s Kaushal Dharmamer 21-14 21-17 in 44 minutes.

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Earlier in the day, former champions Saina, Kashyap and Sourabh advanced to the semifinals with contrasting wins.

The three-time former champion Saina hardly broke a sweat to get the better of former India No 1 Neha Pandit of Mumbai 21-10, 21-10 in a lop-sided quarter-final contest.

Kashyap, a 2012 winner, prevailed 21-18 21-16 over Bodhit Joshi, who had reached the finals of Iceland International last year.

Both Saina and Kashyap had played their pre-quarterfinal match on Thursday night at the newly-laid wooden court of the TRP Indoor Stadium after refusing to play at the Assam Badminton Academy courts due to “uneven” surface.

Former World No. 30 Verma, who had clinched Super 100 titles at Russia Open and Dutch Open last year, eked out a hard-fought 21-11 21-23 21-18 win over B Sai Praneeth.

Verma grabbed seven straight points from 14-17 down in the decider against former Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth in the quarter-finals.

In the other semi-final matches of the day, Rohan Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg lived up to their reputation as the top seeds in mixed doubles. The World No. 46 pair needed only 32 minutes to dispatch Vighnesh Devlekar and Harika V 21-15, 21-16 to enter the final.

They will take on the unseeded combine of Manu Attri and Maneesha K, who continued their rampage with a fine 21-18, 21-17 victory over Shlok Ramchandran and Mithula UK.

In women’s doubles, top seeds Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram continued their quest for the title with a strong 21-13, 21-16 victory over Kuhoo Garg and Anoushka Parikh. They will take on the unseeded Shikha Gautam and Ashwini Bhat K in the summit clash after the latter edged Aparna Balan and Sruthi KP 21-19, 24-22.

Men’s doubles second seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Chirag Shetty beat Arun George and Sanyam Shukla 21-17, 21-18 to secure a place in the final.