Ashmita Chaliha, the qualifier who showed intent and improvement at Thailand Masters
Ashmita became only the third Indian women's singles player to reach the semifinal of a BWF World Tour event after Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu at the Thailand Masters this week.
Ashmita Chaliha, ranked 61st in the world, enjoyed an impressive run at this week's Thailand Masters in Bangkok. She became only the third Indian women's singles player after legendary Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu to play in the semifinal of a BWF World Tour event.
En route to the semifinals, Ashmita beat two higher-ranked players in world no. 30 Pai Yu Po and world no. 44 Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo. This was the first time she played in the semifinals at a World Tour event.
This might be just a Super 300 tournament, the bottom-most event on the BWF World Tour's hierarchy, but sharing a record with the legends of Indian badminton is something remarkable.
It must also be noted that emerging Indian women's singles players do not make it to the quarterfinals or semifinals more frequently. From that context, Ashmita's feat became more worthy in Indian badminton.
But the main issue for the Indian shuttler is to carry forward the momentum in the coming tournaments. Despite being an immensely talented player, Ashmita has been suffering from inconsistency.
Owing to her present ranking, Ashmita is not eligible to play top World Tour events regularly, but with this performance, she will go up at least ten places in the world rankings and that will increase her chances of playing Super 300 and Super 500 events more frequently.
This was Ashmita's first tournament of the year, and she will try to maintain the momentum in the coming tournaments in March and will try to gain more points so that she can enter the top 40.
At the Thailand Masters, she showed her court craft by playing accurate drop shots and also there was much more power in her smashes in this tournament, which showed her improved strength and fitness level. But to stay up in the fight on the World Tour, she still has a lot of work to do.
Ashmita's feat of playing in the semifinals became more fascinating since she rose to the main draw after winning two qualifying matches. In the first round of the main draw, she was up against world no.75, Malaysia's Wong Ling Ching in the round of 32. Ashmita did not have to toil hard to register a comfortable two-game victory there.
She registered an upset win in the second round against Pai Yu Po of Chinese Taipei in a hard-fought three-gamer. Pai struggled with her movement and Ashmita grabbed that chance with both hands by playing an attacking game.
This win surely gave her confidence to do well in future events as she showed in the quarterfinal by registering an easy win against the rising youngster, world no. 44, Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo.
Even though she lost in the semifinal against world no.17 and the eventual runner-up Supanida Katethong, overall it was a fine outing for Ashmita, who will look to make use of the experience in next week's Asian Team Championships.
She is part of the Indian women's team and most likely be India's second-choice women's singles player after PV Sindhu. Though it will be a tough ask for her to take on the Chinese shuttlers, for Ashmita it will be another chance to gain experience.