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 March 18, 2002 | 1635 IST

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Nikhil Kanetkar loses in semis

Nikhil Kanetkar, the lone Indian left in the fray at the French Open badminton championships, lost out in the semi-finals at the Halle Carpentiere in Paris late on Sunday night.

In a rare achievement, the Chinese made a clean sweep of all the titles at stake. In fact, all the finalists were Chinese; there were just the red shirts of a proud nation on view.

Coach Tian Bingyi put it aptly, "We wanted to do the same in Birmingham at All England, but the Koreans spoilt out the fun. But in three events we are very strong today -- the men's and ladies singles and the ladies doubles, and we are sure to dominate world badminton for sometime to come.

"In the ladies doubles, whenever there has been a Chinese pair in any championships in the last 4-5 years, the title has been won by them."

In Paris too, it was no different; only the complete sweep was awesome.

Kanetkar tried his very best in the semi-finals against Wu Yugnag, who had earlier accounted for Abhinn Shyam Gupta in the quarters, but the fast moving Chinese was in no mood for mercy or court niceties. He won 8-6, 7-0, 7-4 in 29 minutes.

"I had a chance in the first game when I was equal at 5-5, but one bad judgement by the umpire got him on gamepoint," he said.

Wu's court coverage was terrific and so was his attacking badminton, full of crisp smashes and body line drives. In his first international tour, he did extremely well and is sure to figure in the Chinese scheme of things in future.

In the final, however, Wu ran up against compatriot Liu Yugang, who was far more experienced and impressive. Liu showed his class by winning the title at 7-5, 8-7, 7-4.

In that second game, Wu fought back remarkably, saving four game points from 3-6 down. His recovery and those amazingly fast rallies had the crowd of 3000 on its feat many times, and even though he lost out, he got a standing ovation.

So did Zhao Ting Ting in the ladies doubles. Suffering from severe cramps in the right thigh, Zhao fought back gamely till the end and ended up a champion with partner Zhang Ya Wen at 1-7, 2-7, 7-5, 7-5, 7-2, in a most extraordinary turnabout of fortunes.

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