World number two Saina Nehwal could be seen in action in the next senior nationals after a gap of five years if the Badminton Association of India (BAI) enforces the new Playersâ€™ guidelines issued recently in letter and spirit.
In a bid to give a new lease of life to the domestic circuit, BAI has now made it mandatory for all players to participate in the Nationals and two international competitions organised in India by the sportâ€™s governing body.
Players with a world ranking above 40 in singles and 25 in doubles will have to also play in at least one senior ranking tournament while all others will have to play two ranking tournaments in addition to the nationals.
According to the new guidelines, if the players fail to adhere to the rules laid down by the BAI, then they can be barred from participating in international tournaments for even six months.
Saina last played in the nationals in 2007 when she won her second national title in Patna. The BAI officials were miffed when the London Olympics bronze medallist pulled out of the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold meet in Lucknow in the first round citing injury. Saina had skipped the tournament the previous year as well.
With most top players choosing to stay away from domestic tournaments and concentrate on boosting their international ranking, the domestic circuit had taken a hit with organisers forcing cancellation of tournaments in the absence of a quality field.
P Kashyapâ€™s trophy cabinet had many medals to show off. But the missing senior national title had been bothering the London Olympic quarterfinalists for far too long. But after today, the 26-year-old can breathe easy.
The Gopichand Academy trainee carved his name on the Vikas Topiwala Challenge Cup with an emphatic 21-18, 21-17 victory over Ajay Jayaram in the menâ€™s singles final of the 77th Senior National Badminton championship here.
The Menâ€™s singles final turned out to be a one-way affair with a spirited Kashyap continuing to display the same form that had helped him demolish his opponent in the semifinal. He was aggressive and went for the kill whenever the opportunity presented itself and never allowed Ajay to get any opportunity to stage a comeback.
â€śIt is a big relief. I wanted to win this title for so many years and itâ€™s a big burden off my shoulder now that I have won it. Ajay has had a fantastic tournament this week, but I was confident of winning. My heath gave me some trouble initially but that didn't affect me today,â€ť said Kashyap, who had previously lost in two finals to Aravind Bhat.
In the womenâ€™s singles, Sayali Gokhale got the better of defending champion PV Sindhu 21-15, 15-21, 21-15 to regain the title she had won four years ago.
It was an absorbing affair with the tenacious Sayali maintaining her intensity throughout the one hour 15 minute encounter, thereby pushing Sindhu to the brink.
A below par PV Sindhu showed the gap between the her and the rest of the Indian women shuttlers when she overcame a sluggish start to beat Arundhati Pantawane 8-21, 21-18, 21-13 to reach the final of the 77th Senior National Badminton championship here on Tuesday.
The defending champion has been carrying niggle in her right knee and never looked comfortable on the court throughout the 49-minute encounter against her Gopichand Academy mate but did just enough to reach the final.
Pantawane had started brilliantly, attacking Sindhu at the outset and bulldozed through the first game.
But Sindhu, who upset the reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the China Open a few weeks ago, slowed the pace of the game and controlled the rallies better to turn the tide.
Sindhu was never in control throughout the match and every time she was being made to stretch for the shuttle preferred to let it go. However, Pantawane failed to execute the right game plan and the pre-tournament favourite comfortably negotiated the challenge with superior net dribbles and half smashes.
She will now face former national champion Sayali Gokhale, who got the better of youngster Tanvi Lad 17-21, 21-9, 21-11.
K Srikanth and K Nandagopal have been used to facing each other for years in their backyard and the business end of the Andhra state championship. But a chance to face off in the 77th Senior National Badminton championship seems a realistic possibility after both the brothers registered convincing wins in the quarterfinals.
Srikanth, who won the Maldives International earlier this year, got the better of former junior national champion RMV Guru Sai Dutt 21-13, 21-19 while Nandagopal hammered giant killer Shreyansh Jaiswal 21-18, 21-9 to reach the semifinals.
Srikanth will now take on London Olympic bronze medallist P Kashyap while Nandagopal will meet Ajay Jayaram for a berth in the final.
While Nandagopal was a runaway favourite in the quarterfinals, it was the younger brother Srikanth who came up with a special performance to upset his senior at the Gopichand Badminton Academy.
There were no flashy strokes, nor any extraordinary game plan. But Srikanth showed the value of sticking to the basics and not allowing any opportunity to score a point pass by. He kept things tight at the net and used the height advantage whenever Guru struggled with the length of his lifts.
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