India's Ashmita Chaliha dished out an attacking performance to send fifth seed Evgeniya Kosetskaya of Russia packing in the first round of the India Open badminton on Tuesday.
World No 84 Ashmita beat Evgeniya 24-22, 21-16 in straight games to record one of her biggest wins on the international circuit.
Ashmita led the first game for a considerable time before losing her way, but kept her cool to thwart three game points to surge ahead.
The Indian shuttler looked far more at ease in the second game as she executed her game plan - playing a variety of drop shots and dishing out smashes - to perfection.
Speaking to journalists after her match, Ashmita said playing free and playing safe helped her emerge victorious in the contest.
"The India Open is a big event and I was looking forward to playing here. I knew I had to play safe and free. This helped me pull out the game. In the first game, I was leading and then played a little negative. She (Evgeniya) was good with her dribbles. My strategy was to play down the strokes with her. I mostly relied on my attacking game and that helped me win the first game," she said.
Ashmita and Evgeniya had met only once earlier, in the White Nights International tournament in Russia which Evgeniya won 21-15, 21-15. Admitting that this win was one of the biggest of her career, Ashmita said overcoming a challenge on game points in the first game was the turning point.
"She challenged me in 20-19. That was the turning point. I haven’t played a lot of matches in the last few years. So, I was nervous and that affected me midway in the opening game. But once I won the first game, I was more confident and so I was relaxed in the second game,” she explained.
Ashmita Chaliha rues lost time due to pandemic
The Indian youngster said losing out on tournament experience due to the pandemic was frustrating. Ashmita only played one tournament in 2021 - the Bahrain International Challenge where she lost to Indonesia's Asty Dwi Widyaningrum 18-21, 11-21 in the quarterfinals.
"Only practicing everyday was tough as there were no tournaments going on. I wanted to compete more, and when I had to play in a tournament in 2021, I got infected with COVID-19. So, my tournaments got canceled. It was sad," she said.
Ashmita has set her sights on moving up the rankings this year.
"I haven't planned much due to the pandemic. However, my plan is to break into the top-50 this year," she signed off.