Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand’s sensational run came to an end as the Indian pair signed off with a second successive semifinal finish at the All England Championships in Birmingham on Saturday. The two young shuttlers found the going tough against Korean world number 20 duo of Baek Na Ha and Lee So Hee, losing 10-21 10-21 in a 46-minute women’s doubles contest at the Utilita arena. “We learnt a lot from this match. The difference was they didn’t leave a shuttle and we did panic a little bit,” Gayatri said after the match. Treesa added: “When we played against them, their defence was good, it was better than yesterday. We were just panicking and didn’t play well, we just kept attacking.” Gayatri’s father Pullela Gopichand, the chief national coach, was the last Indian to win the All England crown, in 2001, the first being the legendary Prakash Padukone in 1980.
Gayatri, 20, and Treesa, 19, had a big opportunity to reach the finals but it ended in anticlimax as they played into the hands of the Koreans.
“I was nervous. There was pressure,” said Gayatri.
The world number 17 pair was pitted against Baek and Lee, the latter being an experienced player with two world championships medals with former partner Shin Seung-chan.
In fact, Lee and Shin had faced defeat against the Indian pair in the last edition but the fresh combination of Lee and Baek have been relentless this week with wins over second and eighth seeds, and looked in supreme touch as they came up with a tactical masterclass.
The Koreans turned into a retrieving machine as they defended seamlessly and extended the rallies with their high tosses and lifts to not allow the Indians to play their short flat rally game.
As a result, Gayatri and Treesa failed to make a good start like they did earlier this week, falling behind 0-4 early on.
Lee and Baek frustrated the Indians with longer rallies, waiting patiently for their opponents to make errors. It worked perfectly as the Koreans grabbed a 11-5 lead.
Briefly the Indians made it 9-13 but it was a one-way traffic from 14-10, with the Koreans drawing the first blood with seven straight points, including the last which went long from Gayatri.
The Koreans didn’t kill the shots at the nets and kept playing more high lifts, with the Indians sticking with their smashes from the back court.
Gayatri and Treesa couldn’t change their tactics and went wide and long too many times as Lee and Baek zoomed to a massive 11-2 lead at the mid-game interval of the second game.
Gayatri had her moment of brilliance, when she mixed body shots with a drop to grab a point to move to 5-11 after resumption, but such instances were too few.
The Indians managed just five more points before Treesa hit the net to hand 10 match points to the Koreans, who sealed their place in the final after another long rally.
Despite the loss, it was a good week for the young Indians, who started playing together only in 2021 and had surprised all by reaching the semifinals in the last edition after being promoted to the main draw from the reserve list.
This time, Gayatri and Treesa had come into the tournament with a Commonwealth Games bronze medal and wins over higher-ranked pairs such as world No. 7 Tan Pearly and Thinnah Muralitharan at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship in February.
Gayatri and Treesa accounted for some big scalps such as the seventh seeded Thai pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Ravindra Prajongjai and Japan’s former world number ones Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in the early rounds this week.
“We played against some good players, the confidence was there. So we are looking to the next tournaments. We have a lot more to learn. We will come back stronger,” Treesa signed off.
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