Top Indian para shuttlers including Paralympic champion Pramod Bhagat and reigning world champion Manasi Joshi battled past their opponents to enter the finals at the 4th Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International on Saturday.
In total, nine Indian para shuttlers have made it to seven finals scheduled to be played on Sunday. In men's singles SL3, Bhagat, who won two gold medals at the recent Bahrain 2022 International, had to come back from a game down each to defeat an untiring Daisuke Fujihara of Japan, who eventually faltered after 18-all in the third game. Bhagat won 14-21, 21-14, 21-18 after fighting for 1 hour 16 minutes. "I never thought the game would go too long.
I was trying to take control of the game but he was just not giving up, even though he looked tired. But I feel he gave up after 18-all in the third game," said the 33-year-old who will play compatriot Nitesh Kumar in the final. Kumar beat fellow Indian Manoj Sarkar, the Paralympic bronze medallist, in straight games 21-17, 21-16. In the men's singles SL4, as expected Tarun Dhillon and Indonesian Fredy Setiwan are set to play the final.
"I am keenly looking forward to the game. In Tokyo, I lost the semi-final to him so it will be sort of a revenge match for me. He is my greatest opponent in Asia, so this will be a good exposure for the Asian Para Games," said Dhillon, who defeated Rickard Nilsson 21-15. 21-17. Setiawan will in fact play in three finals, including the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 with Khalimatus Sadiyah and men's doubles SL3-SL4 with Dwiyoko Dwiyoko. Like India, Indonesia also made it to eight finals including an all-Indonesian game in men's doubles Sl3-SL4.
Manasi vs Mandeep in SL3 final
Among women, it will be an all-Indian tussle for the gold medal in the women's singles SL3. Joshi overcame a second game scare to defeat Australia's Celine Aurelie Vinot 21-13, 22-24, 21-19 and book the final against Mandeep Kaur who defeated Parul Dalsukhbhai Parmar 21-15, 21-9. "It was a good match. I always get nervous when I play with Parul didi. She is senior to me. I tried to make her move around the court," said the 26-year-old Kaur who aims to qualify for the World Championships. Among others, promising Manisha Ramadass and Nithya Sre Sumathy Sivan have advanced to the final as well.
Promising Ramadass, Nithya advance
While Ramadass had to dip deep to beat Denmark's Cathrine Rosengren 24-22, 22-20, Nithya defeated Thailand's Chae Saeyang 21-18, 21-10. Ramadass meets Japan's Akiko Sugino, whom she defeated in three games at the Brazil International. Kaur and Ramadass are also through to the women's doubles SL3-SU5 finals after getting a walkover from Parmar and Palak Kohli. Meanwhile, Dhinagaran Pandurangan and Sivarajan Solaimalai will face top seeds from Hong Kong, Chu Man Kai and Wong Chun Yim in the men's doubles SH6 final.
By definition, the SL3 category is for players with movement moderately affected one side of the body, both legs, or the absence of limbs. SL4 is for players with movement affected at a low level on one side of the body, in both legs, or the minor absence of one limb. SU5 is for players with movement affected at a low level in one arm, a high degree in the non-playing arm the absence of one limb, or the minor loss of one limb.