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Lion-hearted Rupesh-Sanave nearly pull of sensational upset

Dev Sukumar
874   //    01 Mar 2012, 10:52 IST

Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas

Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa were the last Indians standing at the German Open – which marks the start of the big events on the European circuit this season. But it was the men’s doubles team of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas who stood out among the Indian performers on the day, for they nearly upset world No.8 pair Hashimoto and Hirata in the first round, succumbing in a thriller, 25-23 in the third set. Had they converted the match point they had in the third game, the win would’ve been one of their career’s best results, for the Japanese are among the best teams in the world.

The Indian pair has been in brilliant form lately, capturing the Austrian International last week after a sensational upset of world No.10 pair Hendra Gunawan/ Alvent Yulianto at the Thomas Cup preliminaries. On Thursday they nearly extended their giant-killing spree, dominating the first game and taking it 21-17.

The early part of the second game was tight, and the two teams were level at 9. The Japanese slowly pushed ahead, taking seven successive points from 13 to 20, and closing it out at 21-13.

But the Indians refused to buckle, and the third game was a neck-and-neck affair. The two teams inched forward, a point at a time, from 17-all. The Japanese held two match points at 20-19 and 21-20 but Rupesh and Sanave saved them both, and even held their own match point at 22-21. Eventually, the Japanese won 25-23 to make it a heartbreaking day for the Austrian International champions.

Meanwhile, most of the other Indians too fell by the wayside.  Diju-Jwala, Sindhu PV, Arvind Bhat and Anand Pawar were the casualties, and the day was salvaged for them by Jwala-Ashwini Ponnappa, who beat the Canadians Nicole Grether/ Charmaine Reed 21-14 21-16 in the first round. In the singles second round matches, Arvind Bhat went down to veteran Korean Lee Hyun Il 21-19 19-21 21-15; Anand Pawar similarly was bested in a three-setter by Simon Santoso 21-12 15-21 21-19, and PV Sindhu caught short by Singapore’s Gu Juan 21-14 21-15 in the women’s first round.

Jwala and Ashwini’s first round win over the Canadians gives them an appointment with fifth seeds Cheng Wen Hsing/ Chien Yu Chin of Chinese Taipei, the world No.8 pair, which should be a tight contest.

Dev Sukumar
Dev S Sukumar is the recipient of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Media Award, 2011. He is India's most widely travelled badminton writer, having covered several international tournaments, including the Olympics, the Asian Games, the CWG Games, World Championships, the All England, the Denmark Open, the Malaysia Open, etc. He has covered badminton for over ten years now. During this period he has met fascinating characters, witnessed great matches, and has authored a biography of Indian badminton great Prakash Padukone. He has written on the game for several publications, including Sports Illustrated, Mint, Badminton Asia magazine, The New Indian Express, Hindustan Times, DNA and IANS. He tweets at
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