Chaliha’s fight ends in agony as Indian women’s team loses 0-3 to Japan in Uber Cup quarters

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Chengdu (China): Ashmita Chaliha produced a gallant fight before the young and inexperienced Indian women’s team suffered a 0-3 loss to formidable Japan in the quarterfinals of the Uber Cup badminton tournament here on Thursday.

Despite missing the top guns such as PV Sindhu, India had qualified for the knockout stage with two superior victories against Canada and Singapore in the group stage but the 0-5 lose against powerhouse China in the final league match was a reality check.

On Thursday, India fought hard against multiple-time winners Japan with Chaliha and Isharani Baruah giving a good account of themselves in their singles matches.

While world no. 53 Chaliha showed once again that she has the wherewithal to trouble the top players during her narrow 10-21 22-20 15-21 loss to world no. 11 Aya Ohori in a 67-minute contest.

The 20-year-old Isharani, ranked 83, too was up 14-11 and 9-7 in the first and second games before losing 15-21 12-21 to 2017 World Championships and former world no. 1 Nozomi Okuhara.

In between, national champions Priya Konjengbam and Shruti Misra found a glimpse of what it would take to succeed at the highest level as they succumbed to a 8-21 9-21 loss to world no. 4 Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida.

The opening match was a battle between two left handers and it turned out to be a close affair as Chaliha upped her game.

After losing the opening game, Chaliha made a superb comeback when she kept up her attacking game on Ohori and kept snapping at the heels of her opponent from 4-4 to 18-18.

Chaliha made a judgement error at the backline to concede a match point but saved it with a leaping smash and then took a game point when Ohori hit the net.

Another precise return at the backhand corner of Ohori helped Chaliha to stay alive in the match.

In the decider, Chaliha looked in full flow as he opened up a 8-3 lead but Ohori started to find her mark as she set up the points with her precise angled returns and clawed back at 9-9.

The Indian grabbed a two-point lead at the break but she couldn’t sustain the pressure as Ohori clawed back at 12-12 with a straight down the line smash and then moved to a 15-13 lead.

It was a Ohori show thereafter as she grabbed five match points before sealing the 67-minute match when Chaliha erred with her forehand smash.

“The first game could have been better, the court conditions didn’t suit me. I played her in Syed Modi but I wasn’t good, so today I wanted to give my best. Third set I could have been better after the 11 points, I made silly errors,” Chaliha said.

“In the second game, I managed to play on her backhand side. She is a lefty like me, so I got confused initially. With my attacks, I got more points. Overall, I am happy with the way I played. It was a great experience.”

India had reached the semifinals of the Uber Cup thrice in 1957, 2014 and 2016.

The Indian men’s team, the defending champions, will face China in the quarterfinals of Thomas Cup later in the day.

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