Unnati & Anupama top contenders at Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial Jr Badminton tournamentJuly 6, 2022, Panchkula
Haryana’s 15-year-old shuttler Unnati Hooda, who won the Odisha Open Super Series 100 earlier this year, will be one of the top contenders in the Under-19 girls’ singles category of the Yonex-Sunrise 29th Smt Krishna Khaitan Memorial All India Junior Ranking Selection Prize Money tournament to be played at Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex in Panchkula from July 7-13.
Unnati, who also became the Khelo India champion last month, will be joined in the draw by Anupama Upadhyaya, winner of the Polish International Challenge 2020 and the No.4-ranked junior player in the world.
The tournament, which is being organised by Express Shuttle Club Trust under the aegis of Haryana Badminton Association, is being held after a gap of two years and will be one of the three selection tournaments for the Badminton Association of India (BAI) to pick the junior team for various international events, including the world junior championships to be held in October in Santander, Spain.
“The tournament is happening after a gap of two years and we have got more than 1,350 entries for the tournament. While we have received more than 550 entries in the boys’ singles category, more than 330 players compete in the girls’ singles category including the qualification rounds. Unnati Hooda, who became India’s youngest player to win a BWF Super Series 100 title, will be competing in the girls’ U-19 singles as well as doubles events while Lakshay Sharma, winner of last year’s Hungarian international, will be one of the top shuttlers in the boys’ U-19 singles event,” said Sanjiv Sachdeva, organising secretary of the tournament.
The tournament was last played in August 2019 when more than 800 players competed in the event at Panchkula. The tournament, which will be played on the 10 courts of the Multi-Purpose Hall and four courts of the Badminton Hall at the Tau Devi Lal Sports Complex, is being played after the All India Junior Ranking U-19 Tournament in Bengaluru, one of the tournaments for the selection of the Indian junior team, and will offer a total prize purse of Rs four lakh. In 2019, Aditi Bhatt had won the girls’ U-19 title beating Unnati Bist while Maisnam Meiraba of Manipur had emerged as the winner in the boys’ U-19 section with a win over Sathish Kumar of Tamil Nadu.
In the past, London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal had won the girls’ singles title in 2005 while double Olympics medallist PV Sindhu won the title in 2010. “PVV Laxmi had become the first champion of this tournament in 1991 and Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu won the title in subsequent years. In recent years, players like Malvika Bansod, Priyanshu Rajawat and Aditi Bhatt have won the titles and become part of Indian teams. Players will be required to play in all three tournaments at Bengaluru, Panchkula and Goa in an effort to gain a spot in the Indian junior team. Following the Covid-19 protocols, we will not be allowing any parents on the courts during matches,” said Sachdeva, a former India junior chief coach and now a member of BAI’s junior selection committee.
Last week’s All India U-13 Ranking Tournament organised by Punjab Badminton Association in Mohali saw protest by parents on the issue of allegedly over-age players competing. It was followed by BAI suspending two players from Rajasthan. Sachdeva assured that there will be no such case in the Panchkula tournament. “Surinder Mahajan, BAI joint secretary and member of BAI’s age-fraud committee, will be the BAI observer during the tournament and the association will be checking each individual entry into the tournament. More than 20 BAI-approved referees, including chief referee Ramakrishnaiah, will be conducting the tournament and the main draw matches will start on July 1,” said Sachdeva.