Unseeded Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand on Friday became the first Indian pair to reach the semifinals of All England championships, joining in-form Lakshya Sen, who too reached the last four round of the men’s singles competition in Birmingham.
Playing their first Super 1000 event, Treesa and Gayatri, world no 46, recorded the biggest win of their career, a stunning 14-21, 22-20, 21-15 win over world championship silver medallists and second seeds Lee Sohee and Shin Seungchan of Korea.
World Championship bronze medallist Sen had earlier in the day advanced to the men’s singles semifinals after his opponent Lu Guang Zu of China gave a walkover due to an injury suffered in the last match.
Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand are the only Indians to have reached the semifinals before in the prestigious event.
The 20-year-old from Almora, who had secured his maiden Super 500 title at India Open in January and then claimed a runner-up finish at the German Open last week, will face the winner of the match between Malaysia’s sixth seed Lee Zii Jia and Japan’s second seed Kento Momota in the last four round.
Fifth seeded Indian pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, however, failed to cross the quarterfinal hurdle losing 22-24, 17-21 to Indonesian top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in 47 minutes.
FILE PHOTO: Gayatri Gopichand (right) and Treesa Jolly entered the semifinal of the All England badminton championships in Birmingham on Friday. – SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
It was a creditable performance from Treesa and Gayatri, who had started playing together only last year.
The duo will cross swords with China’s Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu in the semifinals.
“We didn’t have pressure, that was the main thing. They are good attacking players and we didn’t play that much but we gave our best,” Treesa said about their clash against the world no 2 Korean pair.
Gayatri, who is the daughter of India’s chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, said they just tried to give a good fight.
“We just tried to give our best. We lost the first game and were down 18-20 in the second game but I just thought we just have to fight,” said Gayatri, who along with Treesa, won their first title together at Infosys Foundation India International challenge.
Asked about their maiden semifinal appearance at such a big stage, Gayatri said: “Definitely, there will be expectations but we don’t feel that pressure, we just have to give our best. We want to win it for our country.”
The Indian duo had won their maiden Super 100 title at Odisha Open and finished second best at the preceding Syed Modi International Super 300 event.
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“I didn’t think we will get an entry first of all but when we got, we felt it was a good opportunity to play top players,” Gayatri said.
The Indian pair was left behind in the opening game but they made it 9-9. The Koreans started to dominated the proceedings and finally broke off at 13-13 to grab the opening advantage.
Treesa and Gayatri once again lagged behind 8-12 in the second game but they fought their way to 15-15. However, the Koreans managed to grab two match point advantage. The Indians kept their nerves to pull out the game and take the match to the decider.
In the third game, Treesa and Gayatri opened up a lead early on and even though the Koreans caught up at 8-8, the Indian combination jumped to a 15-9 lead and then kept their opponents at bay to enter the last four stage.
Sen, on the other hand, continued his sensational run by reaching the semifinals. He had stunned world no 3 and two-time medallist at World Championships Anders Antonsen of Denmark 21-16, 21-18 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals.
The Indian had defeated world no 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark on way to his maiden Super 300 final last week.