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On Wednesday Parupalli Kashyap became the first Indian shuttler to reach the quarter-finals of the Olympics after defeating Sri Lanka's Niluka Karunaratne. Kashyap had to fight it out on court with the player who is ranked 27 places below him. The pre-quarter final match lasted well over an hour before Kashyap finally prevailed 21-14, 15-21, 21-9.
The match witnessed several long rallies and the Indian shuttler was forced to work hard for every point. The Sri Lankan displayed excellent retrieving power which compelled Kashyap to apply all his craft on the court. In the first game Niluka took a 7-4 lead but Kashyap measured his opponent quickly by first narrowing the gap and then taking a six point lead for 17-11. Kashyap displayed excellent cross-court shots and drops. He sealed the first game to 14 with a powerful smash.
In the second game however, the Sri Lankan displayed some impressive shots. He made the Hyderabadi indulge in long rallies that made Kashyap commit sideline errors. Kashyap tried to retrieve the game and saved eight game points but Karunaratne pocketed the game with a smash.
In the last game, the anxiety levels were high as it was a must win for both men in order to qualify for the quarter finals. Kashyap did not let this opportunity slip out of his hands. He kept himself composed and displayed a phenomenal game thereby winning the match.
Saina and Kashyap are the only two Indian players who have qualified for the quarter finals in the Olympics till date.
In women's singles, Saina brought further good news for the Indian camp by winning her pre-quarter final match. She defeated her opponent Yao Jei, the Dutch shuttler with a 21-14, 21-16 scoreline. Both games were well competed, by Saina's superior fitness stood out in the end as Jei was struggling for breath through the latter half of the contest.
Saina began very well in the first match and lapped up quick points to open up a 10-4 lead. Yao began rallying and forced Saina to make a few errors in judgement. Yao narrowed the gap and later even saved several game points but could not turn the game in her favour.
The second game was a neck-to-neck battle and witnessed many exciting rallies. Saina raced to a 5-1 lead but the Dutch hit back and leveled proceedings. Saina made a few errors in this match too but her speed and intelligence allowed her to launch her assault at the right moment to seal the win.
Saina will be up against either Denmark's Tine Baun or Japan's Sayaka Sato in the quarter-finals, scheduled for Thursday while Kashyap will be up against the Malaysian shuttler Lee Chong Wei, who is currently ranked second in the world.
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