Ashwini Ponnappa and Sumeeth Reddy pulled off a stunning upset of mixed doubles top seeds Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen as both she and her doubles partner Sikki Reddy vie for two titles at the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships.
By Don Hearn. Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)
Ashwini Ponnappa (pictured) and Sikki Reddy have both been in major finals before but the new partners are finalists outside their traditional strengths as finals day dawns at their home Grand Prix Gold event. Ponnappa was runner-up once in women’s doubles at the India Open and Reddy was in three mixed finals at Grand Prix events last year but both women will feature in both women’s and mixed finals in Lucknow on Sunday.
Ponnappa and her new mixed doubles partner Sumeeth Reddy created the upset of the day in the semi-finals when they saw off top-seeded Danes Joachim Fischer Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen. After splitting the first two games, the Danes managed to get the upper hand at the third game interval but the new pattern was set by Fischer Nielsen when his first low serve after the end change fell wide of the centre line.
The Danes continued to struggle with errors as the Indian pair kept up the pressure and caught the tall Fischer Nielsen twice with smashes down his forehand sideline. It will be the first appearance in a Grand Prix Gold mixed doubles final for both players.
Ashwini and Sumeeth will face comatriots Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy in the final. The pair, who won two mixed Grand Prix titles this past autumn, beat another Danish pair on Saturday, Mathias Christiansen / Sara Thygesen. Meanwhile, Ponappa will attempt to upset Pedersen a second time on Sunday, when she and Sikki Reddy challenge the top-seeded Danes for the women’s doubles title.
Denmark’s Boe/Mogensen had to fight hard in their semi-final but they prevailed over Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian / Muhammad Rian Ardianto in three and will be challenged by Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han of Chinese Taipei. Lu and Yang went one step further than they did in Korea last month to reach their first Grand Prix Gold final.
Men’s singles sees two Indian players playing in their first Grand Prix Gold finals. Sai Praneeth (pictured above) won his first Grand Prix title last year in Canada and Sameer Verma has already appeared in a Superseries final but the two will battle it out for this honour in front of a home crowd. Sai Praneeth was the more impressive in the semi-final stage, ousting defending champion Srikanth Kidambi, but it was Sameer Verma who saw off Denmark’s formidable Hans-Kristian Vittinghus earlier in the week.
Finals day is to culminate in much the same way as did last week’s Malaysia Masters, with a heavily-favoured Indian facing a hopeful teenaged first-time finalist. The names have changed, however. This week’s favourite is Olympic silver medallist Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, hoping for third time lucky in a Grand Prix final at home.
Sindhu’s challenger is 17-year-old Gregoria Mariska (pictured). In her first Grand Prix Gold semi-final appearance, she defeated SEA Games silver medallist Hanna Ramadhini to become the sole survivor among Indonesia’s three women’s singles semi-finalists.
WD: Kamilla Rytter Juhl / Christinna Pedersen (DEN)  vs. Ashwini Ponnappa / Sikki Reddy (IND)
MD: Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (DEN)  vs. Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (TPE) 
MS: Sameer Verma (IND)  vs. Sai Praneeth B. (IND) 
XD: Pranaav Jerry Chopra / Sikki Reddy (IND)  vs. B. Sumeeth Reddy / Ashwini Ponnappa (IND) 
WS: Pusarla Venkata Sindhu (IND)  vs. Gregoria Mariska (INA)