New Delhi: MalvikaBansod knows she’s not exactly moved mountains by showing a barely exerting and unfit Saina Nehwal the exit door at the India Open Super 500. At best, she sent a pebble skimming to skip on still waters, with a nice leftie side-arm action.
Playing a mostly steady game of badminton, the 20-year-old, ranked 111 in the world, created those surface ripples, which look spectacular when bouncing twice or thrice gleefully before they disappear to the water bed. A 21-17, 21-9 win in the second week of January, beating an opponent she grew up idolising, is happy tidings.
Now, onto AkarshiKashyap, the next opponent. There’s a quarterfinal to be won, once the headlines are put to bed. What Bansod will be pleased with during that upset win over Nehwal – who is trying to shake away early-season rustiness, is coming off injury and has no semblance of form for two years – is how she reacted to the senior pro’s gameplanNehwal was cutting off Bansod’s soft drops and avoiding the knee-aggravating lunge by parking herself at the forecourt.
The younger player managed to make her backpedal with pushes to the backcourt. Nehwal wouldn’t be able to avoid the long stride at the net and find herself out of position.
Bansod had run up a 16-9 lead for an assertive start, but it is in the next few points that she would pick the biggest takeaway from this win. “I think after I get a big lead, the next two-three points I give away through unforced errors,” she would admit later of a tendency that’ll not go unpunished on another day. Indeed, Nehwal had narrowed the lead to 18-16 in favour of the youngster, before smashing wide twice and conceding the first set.
Thereafter, Nehwal didn’t push. And Bansod didn’t pull back while racing to the win, playing what she called an elementary plan. “Not just against her (an injured Nehwal), but that is the general strategy in badminton: to make the opponent move,” she said, subtly downplaying the part Nehwal’s injury might’ve played in the win. It’s clever thinking, clear thinking too, against someone who Bansod claimed she was overawed by when she was growing up.
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