Tokyo: World No.1 Pramod Bhagat sailed into the men’s singles semifinals after beating Ukraine’s Oleksandr Chyrkov in his second group A match of the Tokyo Paralympics badminton event here on Thursday as the country’s shuttlers expectedly produced strong performances.
The 33-year-old, also a reigning world champion, saw off Chyrkob 21-12 21-9 in 26 minutes to top his group and enter the last four in Class SL3.
“I was in the groove today and played really well. Oleksandr Chyrkov is a good player and played some good strokes in the match. I am very happy that I have reached the semi-finals,” Bhagat said.
“Things are going to be tough from here as the knock out stages start. My focus is on one match at a time and also the last league game of the mixed doubles which is a do-or-die situation for us.”
Bhagat and Palak Kohli will play Siripong Teamarrom and Nipada Saensupa in mixed doubles class SL3-SU5 on Friday.
Other Indian shuttlers, including Suhas Yathiraj, Tarun Dhillon and Krishna Nagar also had a good day in office as they opened their men’s singles campaign impressively.
While Suhas and Tarun notched up easy victories over Germany’s Jan Niklas Pott and Thailand’s Siripong Teamarrom in SL4 class respectively, second seed Krishna outwitted Malaysia’s Taresoh Didin in SH6 class.
Young Palak also overcame Turkey’s Zehra Baglar in her second women’s singles match of group A.
The 38-year-old Suhas took just 19 minutes to see off Pott 21-9 21-3 in a lopsided group A clash, while Tarun, 27, too didn’t break a sweat, beating Teamarrom 21-7 21-13 in a group B match that lasted 23 minutes.
Krishna then prevailed 22-20 21-10 over Didin in a 33-minute group B match.
While Suhas will face Indonesia’s Hary Susanto and then France’s top seed Lucas Mazur on Friday, second-seeded Tarun will be up against Korea’s Shin Kyung Hwan and Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan.
The 22-year-old Krishna will take on Brazil’s Vitor Goncalves Tavares on Friday.
Suhas, who has an impairment in one of his ankles, has been at the forefront in the fight against the COVID-19 menace as the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar in Uttar Pradesh.
Tarun, on the other hand, had sustained a severe knee injury while playing football at the age of eight, which resulted in restricted knee movement. He is the current world no.2 and a former two-time world champion.
Krishna, who has a short-stature impairment, is the world no 2 in SH6. He has won bronze and silver at the 2019 World Championships in singles and doubles.
In SL classification, persons with standing/lower limb impairment/severe are allowed to compete, while SU refers to athletes with upper limb impairment.
In women’s singles class SU5 class, Kohli beat Zehra 21-12 21-18 in 27 minutes. She had lost her opening match to Japan’s Ayako Suzuki.
Earlier in the day, the 19-year-old Kohli and her partner Parul Parmar, 48, went down 7-21 5-21 to second-seeded Chinese pair of Cheng Hefang and Ma Huihui in a group B women’s doubles SL3-SU5 class match.
The Indian pair will square off against the French duo of Lenaig Morin and Faustine Noel on Friday.
Parmar, who competes in SL3 class, was no match for China’s Cheng Hefang, losing 8-21 2-21 in 18 minutes in a women’s singles group D match at the Yoyogi national stadium here.
Parmar will meet Germany’s Katrin Seibert later in the day.
Suhas, who had qualified after the game’s governing body BWF granted bipartite quotas to India, said he is looking forward to his match against top seed and title favourite Mazur on Friday.
“We have gone head-to-head on the circuit running up to the Paralympics and I have lost some and won some against him. It will be a good challenge,” he said.
“Because of his height, his strokes come from a certain depth which generally you are not used to, but I have trained specifically for that. I am sure he will also specifically train for me.”
Suhas said he has specifically trained for his match against Mazur.
“My coach used to stand on a chair. I had to be mobile. My coach first used to give the shuttle to one position, and then another. A real match is different, but you do the best that you can,” he said.
Badminton is making its debut at the Paralympics this year.
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