There were few surprises going into the finals of 82nd Badminton National Championships. As the countries top badminton talent gathered in Nagpur, it was the best two individuals or pairs who made it into the last day's action. But while the stars stole the attention, there were several performances that stood out over the course of the tournament.
Ruthvika nearly pulls off a double
Ruthvika Shivani Gadde performed the upset of the tournament when she beat PV Sindhu - who would go on to win a silver medal at the Rio Olympics - in the finals of the 2016 South Asian Games. Gadde's career has not been able to match up to those standards since. However she nearly improved her career head-to-head against Sindhu to 2-0 in the process by taking the World No.2 to three games in the semifinal. Sindhu dropped the opening set 21-17 and briefly trailed 5-7 in the second before eventually recovering to beat the 20-year-old Gadde 17-21, 21-15 21-11 in 50 minutes.
Journeyman upsets the champ
Although he was a former Indian Junior No. 1, drawing comparisons with Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy, Subhankar Dey had fallen off the radar in recent years. The 24-year-old currently plies his trade at a club in Denmark and can only claim a first round appearance as his best result at a Super Series. Yet he would roll back the years and fulfill some of his potential in a major upset against B Sai Praneeth in the quarterfinals. Praneeth, a former national champion and the winner of the Singapore Super Series a few months before, was the favourite against Dey, who was playing his second match of the day and sixth in three days. Yet after an hour and 13 minutes and barely able to stand on badly cramping legs, it was Dey who won in three games: 13-21 21-18 22-20.
So close for Chirag
Chirag Sen has been in the news for bad reasons in recent times. The brother of former World No. 1 junior Lakshya Sen, was accused by the BAI of fudging his age last year. However there has been little disputing his talent. Once ranked the country's leading junior, he has found success at the seniors too. At the 2016 Nationals in Chandigarh he beat top seed Sai Praneeth in the pre quarterfinals. He nearly managed another upset in Nagpur. After dropping the first game meekly against HS Prannoy, he forced the eventual champion to a third before going down 7-21 22-20 15-21. It would be the only time apart from his final against World No. 2 Srikanth that Prannoy would be taken to a decider.
Satwiksairaj ticks another box
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy isn't really an unknown quantity in Indian badminton. In partnership with Ashwini Ponappa he has reached the semifinals of the Dutch Open while alongside Chirag Shetty he beat Danish pair of Mads Kolding and Mads Conrad-Petersen to make the quarterfinals of the French Open. He won the mixed and the men's doubles last year and on Wednesday partnering Ashwini Ponappa, he would win the mixed doubles title with a 21-9 20-22 21-17 win over Pranav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy. Satwik just lost in the men's doubles title though as he and partner Chirag Shetty lost to the Olympian pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri 15-21 22-20 25-23.