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Badminton Asia Jr C’ships: Unnati scripts history, becomes first Indian to enter U-17 singles final

Rising shuttler Unnati Hooda created history at the Badminton Asia U-17 & U-15 Junior Championships 2022 by becoming the first Indian to enter the U-17 singles final after thrashing Japan’s Mion Yokouchi 21-8, 21-17 in Nonthaburi, Thailand on Saturday.

The U-15 singles player Anish Thoppani and the U-17 men’s doubles pair of Arsh Mohammad and Sanskar Saraswat also posted brilliant victories to move into their respective finals.

Top-seed Unnati once again lived up to the expectations and stamped her authority in the U-17 women’s singles semifinal when she wrapped up the match in straight sets. The Odisha Open champion has not yet dropped a set in her campaign at the prestigious event.

Previously, the men’s doubles pairs of Arjun M.R-Chirag Shetty (2013) and Krishna Prasad Garaga-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (2015) had won gold medals for India in the U-17 category at the tournament.

“It’s a great achievement for a youngster. Unnati has proved her top-seeding with dominating displays throughout the tournament. I congratulate her on becoming the first Indian to enter the U-17 singles final at this prestigious tournament. And I also congratulate Anish, Arsh, and Sanskar for entering the finals and also other Indians who secured bronze medals. This tournament is a great platform for young shuttlers and Unnati and our other shuttlers have showcased their talent with impressive performances,” said Sanjay Mishra, General Secretary of the Badminton Association of India.

Unnati will now take on Sarunrak Vitidsarn of Thailand in the gold medal match.

The in-form duo of Arsh and Sanskar also showcased a similar dominating display against Chinese Taipei’s Chi-Ruei Chiu and Shao Hua Chiu to ease into ‘the U-17 men’s doubles final with a commanding 21-15, 21-19 win in the lopsided Last-4 contest.

They will now face another Chinese Taipei opponent, Lai Po Yu, and Yi-Hao Lin, in the final.

Later in the men’s U-15 semifinal, Anish made a sensational comeback after being one set down to stun the second seed Lee Yu-Jui of Chinese Taipei with an 18-21, 21-12, 21-12 win.

In the final, Anish will be up against Chung-Hsiang Yih of Chinese Taipei, who beat India’s Gnana Dattu 21-16, 19-21, 21-13 in another semi-final.

In 2013, Siril Verma won a gold medal in the men’s U-15 singles while Samiya Farooqui and Tasnim Mir clinched U-15 women’s singles titles in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

With this defeat, Dattu signed off with bronze medals a’ong with the U-15 men’s doubles pair of Bjorn Jaison and Aathish Sreenivas P.V, whose impressive run was cut short by the top-seeded Indonesian pair of Muhammad Mubarrok and Raihan Pramono with an 18-21, 14-21 win. The finals will be played on Sunday.

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