Asian Games 2018, India in Badminton: Saina and Sindhu script history in an otherwise average campaign
Asian Games 2018 shall go down in history as a watershed moment for Indian badminton. For the first time ever, not one but two individual players stormed into the semifinals, and one went a notch further, breaking Syed Modi's long-standing record of India's only individual medal in badminton at Asian Games. With her historic silver medal, P V Sindhu, along with Saina Nehwal, who won another historic bronze in women's singles, India walked out from the arena of Asiad badminton with their heads held really high
Team Events: Tough draws ruin another chance to create history
In 2014, Team India had surprised the Asian badminton circuit, when the women's team stormed into the semifinals at Incheon Asian Games 2014, winning their first medal in more than 28 years. They lost to Japan in the semifinals, but had already earned accolades for their impressive stint, and following a historic gold medal in the mixed team event at the Commonwealth Games 2018, the women's team was expected to shine well.
However, the draws had other plans. Despite getting a bye, India faced a tough challenge in the Japanese as they faced them in the quarterfinals. Despite P V Sindhu's comfortable win against Japanese stalwart Akane Yamaguchi, the other Indian girls failed to capitalize on their win and succumbed to the eventual gold medalists by 1-3.
The men's team was no better either. Though they defeated the Maldives handsomely by 3-0, they failed to take on a much weaker Indonesia, and despite the best efforts of Youth Olympics silver medalist HS Prannoy, lost rather badly.
Men's Events: Doubles shine as singles campaign end in a disaster
In the men's category, the surprise factor came out in the doubles. Normally a lesser known category in Indian badminton, and notorious for losing their very first match in straight sets, the new pairs representing India in men's doubles did the exact opposite, cruising for the first time into the pre quarter-finals.
Though they lost to extremely higher ranked teams from China and South Korea, the best fact about this stint was that both the nations had to literally struggle to win, with the pairs of Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, as well as Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy stretching the match to three full sets, something China and South Korea's doubles' pairs won't really like from their opponents.
However, what hurt the Indian fans was the disgraceful exit representing India in the men's singles category. Though not expected to win a medal, Kidambi Srikanth was still expected to make a good impression and enter the quarterfinals at least.
He did neither, losing out surprisingly to a much lower ranked Wong Wing Ki from Hong Kong in straight sets. HS Prannoy crashed out too, but he saved some face by losing to K Wangcharoen of Thailand after an intense match.
Doubles players surprise many with an impressive performance
Another major surprise for Indian badminton was the way the women's doubles played. The duo of Ashwini Ponappa and N. Sikki Reddy stormed into a historic quarterfinal, where they ultimately lost to the Chinese stalwarts Yen Qingchen and Jia Yifan. Despite the loss, one couldn't help but admire the way the girls fought against the Chinese supremacy and can be assured of an optimistic future, where India shall be the badminton powerhouse of the world.
The stars of the night: Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu
However, the real champions were Saina Nehwal. This was Saina's 4th Asian Games since Doha 2006, while for P V Sindhu this was only the 2nd time she participated at the Asiad. However, this time around, both of them not only breached the Round of 16 barrier but also stormed into the semifinals, making history, since before them, only Syed Modi had managed to win an individual medal at 1982 Delhi Asiad.
In the semifinals, Saina Nehwal succumbed to pressure, losing without a tough fight to Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying. However, P V Sindhu overcame a stiff Japanese resistance from Akane Yamaguchi, creating further history as she stormed into the finals, becoming the 1st Indian to do so.
Sadly, like her campaign at Rio Olympics and the subsequent World Championships, she couldn't overcome her final phobia and succumbed to Tai Tzu Ying's challenge, losing in straight sets. Despite the loss, P V Sindhu had made her nation proud with the silver medal, and along with Saina Nehwal, she has created a memorable legacy that can inspire many for generations to come.