Unnati Hooda, Anupama Upadhyaya, Pranav Rao to vie for top honors at Khaitan Memorial badminton tournament

Indian teenage sensation Unnati Hooda will be one of the top contenders to win  the U-19 girls singles crown in Panchkula. (Pic credit: BAI)
Indian teenage sensation Unnati Hooda will be one of the top contenders to win the U-19 girls singles crown in Panchkula. (Pic credit: BAI)

The much-awaited Yonex-Sunrise 29th Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Under-19 Ranking Badminton tournament will get underway on Thursday.

One of the oldest junior national badminton tournaments in the country, this edition of the event was postponed twice. It will be held at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula from July 7 to 13.

The nation's biggest junior talents will be in action in the week-long tourney. The U-19 Panchkula badminton tournament assumes further importance as it will also serve as a selection trial to pick the Indian junior side.

The tournament will be organized by the Express Shuttle Club Trust under the auspices of Haryana Badminton Association and Badminton Association of India.

The qualifying rounds will begin on Thursday, while the main draw will commence on July 10.

Some of the most talented teenagers of the country, such as Unnati Hooda, Anupama Upadhyaya, Sakshi Phogat, Pranav Rao Gandham, Bharat Raghav and Darshan Pujari will vie for the top honors in the tournament.

The 15-year-old Unnati Hooda has been in brilliant form this year. The Haryana teenage sensation shot into the limelight when she emerged as champion at the Odisha Open BWF World Tour Super 100 in January 2022.

Unnati, who represented the country at the prestigious Uber Cup a couple of months ago, became the Khelo India champion last month.

Unnati’s state mate Anupama Upadhyaya is also a contender for the title. The winner of the Polish International Challenge 2020, Anupama is the world No. 4 in the U-19 girls singles. Sakshi Phogat is the top seed.

Southpaw Pranav Rao Gandham of Telangana, Bharat Raghav and Maharashtra’s Darshan Pujari will be the contenders for the Under-19 boys singles title.

Krishna Khaitan Badminton tournament to resume after a two-year gap

The tournament is being held after a gap of two years and will be one of the three selection tournaments. BAI will be selecting the junior teams for various international events, including the BWF World Junior Championships, to be held in October in Santander, Spain.

Organizing secretary of the tournament Sanjiv Sachdeva is pleased that the tournament is finally happening since 2019.

“The tournament is happening after a gap of two years and we have received more than 1,350 entries for the tournament. More than 550 entries are in the boys’ singles category, while nearly 330 girls will compete in the girls’ singles category including the qualification rounds. Unnati Hooda, who became India’s youngest player to win a BWF World Tour Super 100 title, will participate in the singles as well as doubles events,” said Sachdeva on the eve of the tournament.

Sachdeva, a former India junior chief coach and now a member of BAI’s junior selection committee, said that former winners of the tournament include Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Malvika Bansod.

Due to Covid-19 protocols, he said, the organizers will not be allowing any parents on the courts during matches.

The recently held All India U-13 Ranking tournament, organized by Punjab Badminton Association in Mohali, saw many protests by parents over age fraud issues. This was followed by BAI suspending the BAI IDs of two players from Rajasthan.

“Surinder Mahajan, BAI joint secretary and member of BAI’s age-fraud committee, will be the BAI observer during the tournament. The association will be checking each individual's entry into the tournament. More than 20 BAI-approved referees, including chief referee Ramakrishnaiah, will be conducting the tournament, and the main draw matches will start on July 1,” said Sachdeva.

Sachdeva assured that there will be no such case in the Panchkula tournament and suspected players will be monitored closely.

U-19 badminton tournament seedings

U-19 boys singles

1. Pranav Rao Gandham

2. Bharat Raghav

3. Darshan Pujari

4. Tonmoy Bikash Boruah

U-19 girls singles

1. Sakshi Phogat

2. Anupama Upadhyaya

3. Devika Sihag

4. Akanksha Matte

U-19 boys doubles

1. Darshan Pujari - Abhinav Thakur

2. Uneeth Krishna BV-Shashank Chhetri

3. Saikat Banerjee -Nikhil Chetry

4. Nicholas Nathan Raj-Tushar Suveer

U-19 girls doubles

1. Gnanadha Karthikeyan-Sania Sikkandar

2. Vaishnavi Khadkekar-Sri Sai Sravya Lakkamraju

3. Ridhi Kaur Toor-Nardhana VR

4. Isharani Baruah-Devika Sihag

U-19 mixed doubles

1. Anshul Budhwar - Awantika Pandey

2. Ayan Rashid-Srinitya Naraharisetti

3. Mayank Rana - Nardhana VR

4. Samarveer - Radhika Sharma.

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Edited by S Chowdhury
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