Qalandars had also defeated Sultans in last year's final
Dev Vishnu’s biggest dream is to become an Olympic champion. The UAE teenager knows he has a long way to go before he could have a shot at Olympic glory.
But on Wednesday, Vishnu gave a mesmerizing glimpse into his talent.
Inspired by a vociferous crowd, Vishnu unleashed his combination of smashes and deft net play to give Lakshya Sen, the Indian superstar, a run for his money.
The UAE teenager was matching his illustrious opponent shot for shot, taking a four-point lead (12-8) in the first game.
Sen, the world number six and the 2022 All England Championships runner-up, raised his game, but Vishnu was still equal to the task until the 21-year-old Indian found his range to complete a 21-16 21-12 victory.
It was the first win for India in their Group B clash of the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship at the Expo City-Dubai Exhibition Centre on Wednesday.
The Indians went on to complete a 5-0 victory over the UAE, winning the women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles games.
But it was Vishnu’s performance in the hard-fought first set of the first game that captivated the crowd on Wednesday.
The 16-year-old Vishnu’s heroic display of grit and skills against Sen came just 24 hours after his teammate, Bharath Latheesh, 15, put up a stirring fight against world number four Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia before going down 21-12, 21-15.
The home team may have lost their first two ties of the tournament to two vastly superior teams, but the performances of two teenagers showed the impressive pool of badminton talent that now exists in the country.
Vishnu was elated with his display against India’s best player on Thursday.
“It’s a wonderful experience, as you know, he is one of the world’s best players. So, it was a very good experience. I would just like to thank the UAE federation for giving us such a good opportunity,” Vishnu told the Khaleej Times after the match.
“It’s going to give me a lot of confidence for the upcoming tournaments that I have. I know I can perform well against the world’s best players.”
Vishnu, who was inspired to pick up a racquet at the age of six after watching Chinese legend Lin Dan, stepped onto the court with a plan to attack Sen from the start.
“Yes, I actually did plan it (to play aggressively). I had things planned. I wanted to be alongside him, to cope with the way he plays. I did that in the first game,” he said.
Vishnu then thanked the local fans that turned up in big numbers to support the UAE team.
“Yes, it feels amazing, as you know, I am from the UAE, it’s my home crowd. Everyone was cheering for me, my friends and family. It was an amazing experience,” said the Indian Academy School student.
The second day of the tournament also saw the Dubai-born Tanisha Crasto go up against her old training partners as she teamed up with Ishaan Bhatnagar to beat Latheesh and Nayonika Rajesh of the home team 21-13, 21-8 in the mixed doubles.
Tanisha, who took her first steps in badminton at the Etisalat Academy in Dubai, said it was heartwarming to see the UAE teenagers’ performance at the Asian championships.
“It’s a very different feeling. The members of the UAE team are actually the members of the team that I train with when I come to Dubai for a few days. These are the people that I train with and they are like family. It’s a different feeling, I am really happy to be playing amongst them,” Tanisha told the Khaleej Times after her match.
“I see a lot of scope and talent because these players are really performing well. Not just today, they also put up a good show against Malaysia. I think they will reach great heights in the future.”
Meanwhile, defending champions China won their second straight tie with a thumping 5-0 win over Singapore, having blanked Uzbekistan on Wednesday.
On Thursday, India will be eyeing a win over the formidable Malaysia in their final Group B game to get a favourable draw in the knockout rounds.
Star shuttler PV Sindhu, who was rested for the UAE tie, will be back to lead India’s challenge against Malaysia.
India 5 UAE 0
Lakshya Sen (India) beat Dev Vishnu (UAE) 21-16, 21-12
Aakarshi Kashyap (India) beat Madhumita Sundarapandian (UAE) 21-6, 21-7
Dhrub Kapila/Chirag Shetty (India) beat Dev Ayyappan/Dhiren Ayyappan (UAE) 21-15, 21-14
Ashwini Bhat/Shikha Gautam (India) beat Sanika Dhawan/Akansha Raj (UAE) 21-7, 21-4
Ishaan Bhatnagar/Tanisha Crasto (India) beat Bharath Latheesh/Nayonika Rajesh (UAE) 21-13, 21-8
Indonesia 5 Bahrain 0
China 5 Singapore 0
South Korea 5 Uzbekistan 0
Thailand 5 Lebanon 0
Japan 4 Hong Kong China 1
Chinese Taipei 5 Pakistan 0
Thailand 5 Bahrain 0
Syria 5 Lebanon 0
Malaysia 5 Kazakhstan 0
(from 9 am): China vs South Korea, Singapore vs Uzbekistan
(after 1 pm) Japan vs Chinese Taipei, Indonesia vs Thailand, Hong Kong (China) vs Pakistan, Bahrain vs Syria
(after 5 pm) Malaysia vs India, Kazakhstan vs UAE
Qalandars had also defeated Sultans in last year's final
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