Even depleted AP is too good for the rest

ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA

The AP team which made a clean sweep of the titles.-K. RAMESH BABU

THE fact that Andhra Pradesh was able to make a clean sweep of the medals in the badminton championship of the 32nd National Games despite the absence of P. Gopi Chand and P.V.V. Lakshmi is a clear indication of the depth of talent in the state.

While Gopi was recovering from an earlier injury, Lakshmi was out of touch and opted out of the tournament. The two had been the winners of the singles golds in the men's and women's categories respectively in the previous edition of the National Games in Punjab.

As a result AP was below full strength in the team events also but the superb skills of players such as Chetan Anand, J.B.S. Vidyadhar, C. M. Sashidhar in the men's section and Neelima Choudary, G. Jwala and Sruthi Kurien in the women's section made up for the absence of the state's top players.

AP started its medal hunt in a grand manner by bagging the men's and women's team golds. In the men's final AP defeated Kerala 3-1 and in the women's final AP beat Maharashtra 2-1. The women's title was the third in a row for the state. Coach S. M. Arif was all smiles after the medals were in the bag. The AP players had fulfilled all his expectations and there were scenes of jubilation all around.

The singles winners Chetan Anand and Neelima Choudary (below).-K. RAMESH BABU

In the men's final comprising three singles and two doubles, AP was banking on winning all the three singles because rival Kerala had very strong doubles combinations. As excepted Kerala won the doubles match but the AP singles players delivered the goods. J. B. S. Vidyadhar defeated Joy T. Anthony without much difficulty but AP's Sashidhar and Kerala's Rupesh Kumar were involved in a hard battle before Sashidhar was able to get the better of his rival. Then AP's top player Chetan Anand beat Thomas Kurien although the latter put up a good fight.

In the women's final AP's Neelima Choudary lost to Trupthi Murugunde in the first singles, but in the doubles the AP pair of G. Jwala and Sruthi Kurien cruised to an easy victory over Trupthi and Manjusha Kanwar of Maharashtra. A long period of playing together has given these AP girls a fine sense of understanding and this was in evidence as they won their match with a great degree of ease.

The crucial battle then was the final singles between Deepthi and Manjusha Kanwar. Coach Arif said later that he was apprehensive of this contest as Deepthi would have a tough fight against the experienced Manjusha.

With the men's gold already in the bag, all eyes turned upon Deepthi hoping that she would be able to give AP the much desired second gold. Deepthi managed to overcome her nervousness and chalked up a memorable win over Manjusha to ensure the gold.

In the individual events the men's singles saw Punjab National Games runner-up Chetan Anand defeat an off-colour Abhinn Shyam Gupta easily. Chetan managed to make Abhinn run from end to end and prevented the UP player from coming near the net.

K. RAMESH BABU

The women's singles final was an all-AP affair as the experienced Neelima Choudary clashed with G. Jwala. The latter managed to take the first game, but then Neelima found the desired length and accuracy in the second and third games to wrap up the issue.

The women's doubles pair of Jwala and Sruthi won the doubles title as per expectations, but the icing on the cake came from the men's doubles pair of Chetan and Vidyadhar who pulled off an upset over Jaison Xavier and Jaseel P. Ismail of Kerala.

The results: (all finals): Men team championship:

AP beat Kerala 3-1 (C. M. Sashidar bt Rupesh Kumar 15-7, 6-15, 15-13; J. B. S. Vidyadhar bt Joy T. Anthony 15-3, 15-1; Sunil and Prithvi lost to V. Diju and Sanave Thomas 10-15, 1-15, Chetan Anand bt Thomas Kurien 15-17, 15-8, 15-8).

Women team championship:

AP beat Maharashtra 2-1 (Neelima Chaudhary lost to Trupthi Murugunde 2-11, 5-11; G. Jwala and Sruthi Kurien bt Trupthi Murugunde and Manjusha Kanwar 11-4, 5-11, 11-9).

Individual events:

Men's singles: B. Chetan Anand (AP) bt Abhinn Shyam Gupta (UP) 15-2, 15-11; Doubles: Chetan Anand and J.B.S. Vidyadhar (AP) bt Jaseel P. Ismail and Jaison Xavier (Ker) 6-15, 15-10, 15-5.

Women's singles: Neelima Choudary (AP) bt G. Jwala (AP) 8-1, 11-4, 11-7; Doubles: Jwala and Shruthi Kurien (AP) bt Archana and Manjusha Kanwar (Mah) 8-11, 13-10, 11-9.