Even before the men’s singles, quarter-finals could begin at the Wembley Arena in London, Parupalli Kashyap knew he had no chance. World no.1 and Beijing silverÂ medallistÂ Lee Chong Wei has been waiting for too long now to surge ahead of arch-rival and Beijing gold medallist Lin Dan and win an Olympic gold. To say Kashyap crashed out would be too harsh on the 25-year old World Number 21, who made every Indian proud with his performance. With a calm and focused demeanour, Kashyap went into the match as an underdog. Yet, the possibility of an upset could not have been ruled out after his upset victory over World No.3 Chen Long last month at the Indonesian Open.
Kashyap took an initiative early on in the first game, as the nervous Malaysian kept committing error after error. Kashyap matched his much higher ranked opponent stroke for stroke, smash for smash, taking a comfortable lead in the first part of the set. In the second half, Wei, realising he was in danger of losing, used all his experience to come back strongly. With the score tied at 19-19, the Malaysian clinched the next two points and the first set ended at 21-19.
The second set, however, was completely one-sided. Wei, showing why he is the world’s highest ranked player hit winners at will. Barring a few exceptional shots, Kashyap could not quite match the charged-up Malaysian who committed minimal errors and controlled the pace of every rally. To his credit, Parupalli Kashyap maintained his focus and composure even when the top-seeded Malaysian had 10 match points.
Despite his loss, Kashyap can return with his head held high and a belief that he belongs at the highest level. He had already outdone himself and his ranking by reaching the final-8 stage and anything more was only going to be his bonus. Coach Pullela Gopichand, former all-England champion, will definitely be pleased with his ward’s performance at the London games. While all hopes rested on Saina Nehwal and the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini, Parupalli Kashyap was never a medal contender.
Once back in India, Kashyap will start training again at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton academy, hoping to improve his ranking and do well in the international circuit. Will he still have the motivation, 4 years from now, to take part in the Olympics and improve upon his performance? Only time will tell.