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Battle for the lone spot: Priyanshu Rajawat sets up date with Odisha Open winner Kiran George

Setting up an Odisha Open finals re-match, youngsters Priyanshu Rajawat and Kiran George will be fighting it out for the one seat on the men's singles squad at the BAI Selection Trials.

Priyanshu rajawat kiran george bai selection trials

Indian badminton player Priyanshu Rajawat is currently ranked 30th in the BWF World Rankings. (Photo credit: BAI)


Sohinee Basu

Published: 19 April 2022 6:25 PM GMT

New Delhi: Early into the evening of the penultimate day of the BAI Selection Trials, 20-year-old Priyanshu Rajawat had all eyes trained on him as he took on Ravi in the Men's Singles position 1-4 clash at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall within the campus of the verdant Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex.

Deft at the net, lithe with the rallies and powerful with his smashes, Rajawat glided on the court, moving swiftly as Ravi also pushed him with solid shots and dragged the match into a tense decider before Rajawat could finally have the last word, winning 21-17, 7-21, 21-13.

"It has been an amazing run so far," Rajawat, still a little flushed from the three-setter, tells The Bridge, moments after setting up a date with Kiran George in an epic finale clash at the BAI Selection Trials, in a hot bid to take the one place up for grabs on the squad of the upcoming team events - Thomas Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

The last and only other time the two had met, fireworks had erupted as they locked horns with each other in the finals of the Odisha Open where it was Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy product, Kiran George who had walked away with the gold from the BWF Super 100 event.

READ | Lakshya Sen & Kiran George: The two aces of Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy

In what was another gripping three-setter, both the up and rising stars engaged in a tight battle of equals before the 22-year-old George got the better of Rajawat, who has been training at the Gopichand Academy since he was all of seven, and won 15-21, 21-14, 18-21 to lift the title - but in the process, a rivalry was also born.

And then there will be one

Flash forward three months, the stakes are different now but the opponents across the net will be the same as they contest for the single spot available and hope to make the cut for the squad.

The men's singles category at the BAI Selection Trials was easily the one infested with the most competition as well as unpredictabale with a series of deserving talents doing extremely well, even giving veterans like World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth a run for their money.

With Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy already directly selected for the teams by virtue of their Top 15 rankings and recent performances, the battle for the last spot will come down to a clash between Priyanshu Rajawat and Kiran George, in a rematch of the Odisha Open finals.

"I had lost to Kiran last time. So I will do my best and try with my everything to ensure it doesn't pan out that way," Rajawat, with a smile ensured, excited at the prospect of making it to the finale clash by losing only one match so far - against Sai Charan Koya in an encounter that again, went the full length.

"But there is no such pressure on me, I have had a very good outing here," Rajawat continued, absolutely not letting the situation get to his nerves but rather focussing on what needs to be done to tame George.

Having been inspired by his brother Kunal, Priyanshu's foray into badminton has been most-rewarding with a lot of medals clinched at both national and international events, easily making him yet-another-little-big-thing to happen to Indian badminton.

With both Rajawat and George, hailing from two of the leading badminton academies in the country, the Gopichand and Padukone camps, in many ways the finale will be an epic one and the fireworks will only be kept at ready to serenade the last man standing.

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