Badminton Nationals: Ashmita Chaliha packs a punch

The 19-year-old from Guwahati, who clinched two international titles at the Dubai Open and TATA Open in 2018, displayed a wide array of strokes and showed great temperament during her fighting 10-21, 20-22 loss to P.V. Sindhu.

Ashmita Chaliha of Assam, displayed her prowess in the second game against P.V. Sindhu when she fought her way from 8-13 down to not only draw level but also grab a 19-16 lead at one stage, conjuring hopes of a decider.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Promising Assamese player Ashmita Chaliha gave ample display of her immense talent, packing a punch during her women’s singles semifinal clash with Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu at the Senior Badminton Nationals here on Friday.

The 19-year-old from Guwahati, who had clinched two international titles at the Dubai Open and TATA Open in 2018, displayed a wide array of strokes and showed great temperament during her fighting 10-21, 20-22 loss to Sindhu, a two-time World Championship silver medallist.

Initially, the occasion seemed to have got to Ashmita as she couldn’t connect her strokes and lost the opening game rather meekly.

Read: Sindhu beats spirited Ashmita, storms into final, to meet Saina

“I was nevous initially and hit out a lot and couldn’t match her pace in the first game,” Ashmita said later.

However, with the local crowd egging her, the Assamese progidy’s prowess was in full display in the second game when she fought her way from 8-13 down to not only draw level but also grab a 19-16 lead at one stage, conjuring hopes of a decider.

The experienced Sindhu eventually prevailed after clawing back to 19-19 and grabbing a match point at 20-19. Ashmita saved one before going wide to hand over the match to her fancied opponent.

“I managed to give her a fight in the second game. I was constantly talking with myself and those were not funny chats. I was reminding myself of my errors,” she said.

“I need to work on my errors. I hope next time I don’t go down in straight games,” said Ashmita, who had played against Sindhu at the Inter-State Team Championship in Vijaywada in 2015.

P.V. Sindhu in action against Ashmita Chaliha.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Ashmita burst on the scene when she sealed a spot in the Asian Games squad, riding on her semifinal finish in the Bengaluru All-India event and then winning in Hyderabad.

Indonesia’s hand in Ashmita’s rise

Indonesian coach Edwin Iriawan joining the Assam Badminton Academy a year back seemed to be a boon for Ashmita.

“Ever since Indonesian coach Edwin Iriawan came here, he has been helping me to work on my stamina and stroke,” she said.

A self-confessed fan of Malaysian legend Lee Chong Wei, Ashmita followed the former world no. 1’s game and even tried to copy his strokes.

“I used to watch Lee Chong Wei’s videos, he is my favourites and I tried to copy his strokes.”

Related: A year of happy surprises for Ashmita

The hours of going through the videos and the work put in with Edwin seemed to work wonders as she won back-to-back International Challenger at Dubai and TATA Open to finish the year on a high. She also won three All-India ranking tournaments at Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

Sindhu too had a word of praise for her young opponent.

“I have been seeing her for a long time. She has improved a lot and she has got some great strokes. If she works hard, she will definitely come up. She will do well in a couple of years,” she said.

Ashmita now will head to play two international tournaments in April in Finland and Netherlands.