Our Correspondent in Birmingham
Pullela Gopichand created history at the All-England Badminton Open Championship when he became only the second Indian player to enter the final of the premier tournament.
Gopichand beat world number one Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark in straight games 17-14, 17-15 in a thrilling encounter. The top-seeded Dane saved as many as four match-points in the second game before Gopichand overcame his resistance on the fifth one.
He thus emulated his guru Prakash Padukone, who had become the first Indian badminton player to make it to the finals way back in 1980.
Padukone had gone on to win the championship.
Gopichand will play the winner of the second semi-final between Chen Hang of China and Muhammad Hashim of Malaysia.
Gopichand established comfortable leads in both sets
but let his opponent catch up with him, making some unforced
errors before coming back to win.
Gopichand, seeded tenth in the tournament, took an early
lead in the first set and led 12-4 and 13-6 before Gade used
all his experience to bounce back.
Gade took two points to make it 8-13 and then capitalised
on a series of unforced errors by the Indian to equalise at
13-all. He had a game point at 14-13 before Gopi regrouped his
energies to snatch back the serve and won a point to extend
the game by three points.
A couple of service exchanges later Gopi won three
consecutive points to close out the set 17-14.
Gopi again raced ahead to a 11-4 lead in the second set
which saw some brilliant rallies and powerful smashes by both
players. After Gade had closed the gap to 8-11, Gopi won
two points to lead 13-8 and come within two points of victory.
He went on to enjoy a match-point at 14-11 but probably
overawed by the occasion, made a few unforced errors to let
his opponent once again catch up at 14-all.
After conceding a one-point lead at 14-15, Gopi placed a
beautiful drop shot to equalise and then deceived Gade with
two short services to clinch the match 17-14 17-15 in 72
(With inputs from agencies)
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