A long way to go

The champs... Wei Fang Chong of Malaysia and Kanako Yonekura (below) of Japan.-PICS: RITU RAJ KONWAR The champs... Wei Fang Chong of Malaysia and Kanako Yonekura (below) of Japan.

India’s champions, Chetan Anand and Saina Nehwal, failed to justify their rankings, going down meekly to their lesser-ranked foreign opponents. S. Sabanayakan reports.

The India International Challenge badminton championship (prize money: $15,000) in Guwahati recently brought to the fore the difference in standard of the game in India and that of Japan and Malaysia. Despite being ranked higher, the way India’s two National champions, B. Chetan Anand and Saina Nehwal, were befuddled by Wei Fang Chong (Malaysia) and Kanako Yonekura (Japan) in the singles finals is a pointer to the fact that Indian badminton has a long way to go.

The Indian sportspersons are generally known to be tigers at home, but even that belief took a beating in Guwahati as Chong, 20, a semifinalist at both the Vietnam Open and the Malaysian International Challenge, won his maiden international title mesmerising the Indian champion, Chetan Anand, in three games. And had it not been for a disputed line call, the Malaysian, ranked No. 94, would have won in straight games.

Anand, ranked No. 51, failed to capitalise on the breather he enjoyed in the second game — he won it 22-20 — as his opponent displayed a far superior court craft, skill, stamina and tactics. This was Anand’s second defeat to Chong in two months following his loss at the Vietnam Open.

The story of Saina Nehwal was far worse than what the scoreline suggests. The stocky Indian, who won two Indian Satellite titles in 2005 and 2007, and the Philippines Open last year, was outplayed by Kanako Yonekura.

Fresh from winning the Scottish International Championship last month, the Japanese had also bagged the Australian International title in May this year.

Saina, ranked No. 27, didn’t seem to be in a positive frame of mind against Kanako, ranked No. 36. The Japanese was fluent in her movements and assured in her stroke-play. She controlled the proceedings very well to humble the Indian champion.

India’s tale of woe continued as it was humbled in the men’s doubles final by the Malaysian pair of Peng Soon Chan and Hun Pin Chang. The Malaysians hardly worked up sweat as they outclassed T. Dinesh and Jayan James in two games.

The only silver lining for India in the tournament was its victory in the women’s doubles final. Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurian justified their top billing to win the crown easily in a field dominated by the SAF countries. Jwala also won the mixed doubles title in the company of Diju. The two tamed second-seeded Indian pair of Rupesh Kumar and Aparna Balan.

The most disappointing aspect of the three-day championship was the performance of the five-member team from Indonesia, a country known for its badminton talent. The field also included an entry each from Italy and Austria.

Italy’s Klaus Raffeiner, seeded No. 2, was shocked by Wajid Ali of Pakistan in the round of 32, while Austria’s Clemens Smola proved to be a tourist rather than a quality player, falling to Sagar Chopda in the first round.

THE RESULTS

Men’s singles final: Wei Feng Chong (Malaysia) bt B. Chetan Anand (India) 21-18, 20-22, 21-15.

Men’s doubles final: Peng Soon Chan & Hun Pin Chang (Malaysia) bt T. Dinesh & Jayan James (India) 21-8, 21-15.

Women’s singles final: Kanako Yonekura (Japan) bt Saina Nehwal (India) 21-13, 21-18.

Women’s doubles final: Jwala Gutta & Shruti Kurian (India) bt Aparna Balan & P. Jyotsana (India) 21-11, 21-8.

Mixed doubles final: V. Diju & G. Jwala (India) bt Rupesh Kumar & Aparna Balan (India) 21-14, 21-16.