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Bhat at his best, regains crown

Rakesh Rao

Aditi Mutatkar avenges a loss to claim her maiden National title

— PHOTO: RAKESH RAO

CHAMPIONS: Aditi Mutatkar and Arvind Bhat pose with their trophies after reigning supreme in the National badminton championship on Monday.

ROHTAK: Patience and experience carried the day for Arvind Bhat and Aditi Mutatkar in two contrastingly thrilling title-clashes of the 75th National badminton championship at the MDU Indoor hall here on Monday.

Arvind, 31, was back as champion since 2008 after producing his best to stop a supremely confident P. Kashyap. The 21-13, 21-17 scoreline may not reflect the closeness of the 52-minute men's final but surely left Arvind a worthy winner.

The victory took time to sink in and when it did, the lanky champion jumped in the air, clenched his fist in a triumphant celebration before tossing his racquet into the crowd.

Hard work pays

“Last night, a thought flashed my mind that I could win in straight games. Believe me, Kashyap is one of the fastest movers on the court in world badminton today. I have been struggling to hit my peak for the past two years now. But today, I am happy that all my hard work came good at the right time,” said a jubilant Bhat, who was quick to point out that the 21-point rule had made it possible to for the lesser players to be hopeful against the stronger ones.

In a match that witnessed many thrilling rallies dotted with deft placements, Bhat bounced back from 0-5 and broke away from 10-all to win the first game.

In the second, Bhat raced away from 4-4 and led all the way to the title. Kashyap, who eventually received a yellow card from umpire Rakesh Sekhar for delaying tactics, will have to wait for his turn to don the National crown.

Earlier, Aditi, 23, saved three championship-points to stop qualifier Arundhati Pantawane 19-21, 23-21, 21-15 in 65 minutes to avenge the loss suffered in the team championship. In a rather subdued reaction to her first ever National ladies title, Aditi held back tears of joy but eventually let them flow when hugged by four-time National champion and Petroleum coach Manjusha Kanwar.

Aditi, whose National junior title, too, had come at the expense of Arundhati in 2006, explained her reaction. “In the past, I've reached a few semifinals and a final. When I won, it took some time for the feeling to sink in.”

Indeed, for Arvind and Aditi, the title meant a lot at this stage of their careers.

At the time, when the nation is raving about young talents and older players are being dismissed as “over the hill”, Arvind and Aditi proved that experience was still a great asset to have.

Each champion, apart from the prize-money, also received a Maruti Suzuki SX4 car.

The results (finals):

Men: 8-Arvind Bhat (Pet) bt 13-P. Kashyap (Pet) 21-13, 21-17.

Women: 7-Aditi Mutatkar (Pet) bt Arunadhati Pantawane (Mah) 19-21, 23-21, 21-15.

Men's doubles: 4-Rupesh Kumar (Pet) & Sanave Thomas (Ker) bt 3-Manu Attaree & Jishnu Sanyal (AI) 21-15, 21-9.

Women' doubles: 1-Aparna Balan (Pet) & Prajakta Sawant (AP) bt 2-Pradnya Gadre & P. Jytosna (AI) 13-21, 21-19, 21-15.

Mixed doubles: 2-Pranav Chopra (Pun) & Prajakta Sawant (AP) bt 1-Arun Vishnu & Aparna Balan (Pet) 18-21, 21-11, 21-13 .

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