Malvika Bansod, ranked 65, upsets Chinese World No 24 Yue Han in Korea Open badminton

Malvika Bansod wrapped up her match against World No 24 Chinese Han Yue and set about focussing on her next match – against Thai trickster Pornpawee Chochuwong. The 20-22, 22-20, 21-10 win against the Chinese opponent might well rank as her biggest win yet, though she has scalped a half-fit Saina Nehwal at the start of the year to show up on the radar of India’s women’s singles. It’s a cupboard that boasts two glittering names of PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, though the heir is not only not apparent, but not even a blur on a horizon.

Every singles victory thence will be looked at as an audition for the third spot.

Bansod, ranked No 625 in the world, knows it’s an important year with chances popping up, at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the more immediate Uber Cup. But the Nagpur woman who trains at Raipur in Chhattisgarh under Sanjay Mishra, remained resolutely zoned in her focus – on the next match. Yet, wins against the Chinese (Han Yue is currently 4th after Chen Yufei, He Bingjiao and Wang Zhi Yi) are rare for Indians outside the top two. And Bansod was surprisingly poised and confident throughout.

The Indian ran a lead of 16-11 in the opener and was on the brink of taking it after looking settled at 20-16. Closing out from an advantageous position is typically a weakness with the lesser experienced Indian women on the international circuit, and Akarshi Kashyap rather heartbreakingly lost from within sniffing distance of victory earlier at the Syed Modi. Bansod too got taut in her movements and led the errors to bleed giving away 6 points in a row to hand away the opener.

Yet, in her own estimate, the mini-meltdown was just a glitch, and Bansod reckoned she’d been playing well enough to not merit panic. ” I played well throughout the three games, just had a bit of hard luck at the end of the first game. I just maintained my focus and determination in the second game and fought well. Maintained the momentum in the third as well,” she would tell Express later.

The second set consolidation saw Bansod not take her foot off the medal for even a moment. She had a handy 14-7 lead, but the Chinese was fighting back. Han Yue is a pugnacious sort of player, who runs hard, and can get going in the closing stages. She couldn’t be faulted for hoping that she could sneak up on the Indian once again as she picked points in a hurry to level at 20-all. Yet it’s here that Bansod showed her unflappable temperament and quiet steel to pounce on the next two points to force a decider.

No matter what confidence the Chinese carried from twice harrying Bansod at the clutch, the Indian stayed unfazed. Han carried the momentum up to 7-all in the third. But an unblinking, unbullied Malvika simply kept up before the change of ends. Switching court sides, the Indian did not take a breather or dawdle and in a run of 9 straight points, secured a commanding win in 56 hard-fought minutes over the opponent.

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