Paralympics: Bhagat, Yathiraj in badminton finals
Tokyo, September 4, 2021
Shuttlers Pramod Bhagat and Suhas Yathiraj stormed into the Men's Singles final in SL3 and SL4 class, respectively, to assure India of two medals in the Tokyo Paralympic Games badminton competition on Saturday.
Bhagat, the world No 1 in SL3 class, defeated Daisuke Fujihara of Japan 2-0 (21-11, 21-16) in the semi-finals while Yathiraj got the better of Sethiwan Fredy of Indonesia 2-0 (21-9, 21-15) in the SL4 class.
In both these sections, two Indians will be figuring in the bronze medal matches. Manoj Sarkar lost in the semi-finals to Daniel Bathell of Great Britain in the SL3 section while Tarun Dhillon lost to France's Lucas Mazur, the top seed, in a three-setter that went past the one-hour mark.
Bhagat, the reigning world champion in this class, took an early lead in his semifinal clash with the Japanese and rode the momentum to emerge 21-11, 21-16 to surge into the final at the Yoyogi National Stadium here.
In the final, Bhagat will meet World No. 2 Daniel Bathell, the man he beat in the final of the World Championship in Basel in 2019. Bathell defeated India's Manoj Sarkar 21-8, 21-10 in the second semi-final, surging ahead from 9-9 in the second game to win in 38 minutes.
Bhagat served well and capitalised on the advantage of opening he could create by moving the shuttle up and down to win 15 points on his service. He had a big lead of 10 points and did not make many mistakes as he won easily.
The second game was tougher as Fujihara tried to counter the Indian's game. But Bhagat was not to be denied as he went on to win the second game 21-16 and sealed victory.
The SL3 class games are played in one-half of the badminton court as the players can't make a sideways movement.
India can now expect two medals from this section, Bhagat fighting for the gold while Sarkar will take on Fujihara in the bronze medal match to be played later in the day.
Yathiraj, who is the district magistrate of Gautam Buddha Nagar (NOIDA) in Uttar Pradesh, found the going easy in the first game as he controlled the rallies and moved his opponent around with measured strokes. He won 14 points on his serve while taking seven off Sitawan's serve. The Indonesian put up a tougher fight in the second but Yathiraj won it at 15 to win the semi-final.
Dhillon put up a brilliant fight in the semi-final against Mauzer after losing the first game 21-14. He took a seven points lead and maintained his hold to win the second set. The scores went neck-and-neck in the third game before Mauzer broke away to win it 21-18.