Unnati Hooda Progresses to Becoming India's Next WS Star
India, the country that gave birth to P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, is in the making of their next women’s singles star. The country’s power in senior women’s singles hasn’t been well reflected in the junior group, especially in the U17 group. Since the U17 Asian Championships were held, India has never won in that group. Today, the opportunity to make history is wide open.
At the finals of the Badminton Asia U17 & U15 Junior Championships 2022, India is able to advance its representative to the women's singles through Unnati Hooda. In the semifinal round held in Nonthaburi, Thailand, Saturday (3/12/2022), the woman who was born on September 20, 2007, successfully defeated the Japanese representative Mion Yokouchi in two straight games 21-8, 21-17. In the final round, Unnati Hooda, who is also the first seed, will face the representative of the host Thailand, Sarunrak Vitidsarn. The second seed won a ticket to the final after winning two straight games 21-13, 21-14 over the tenth seed from South Korea Kim Min Sun.
The meeting between Unnati Hooda and Sarunsak Vitidsarn in the fight for the championship was the second meeting for them. Previously, the first and second seeds met in the final of the 2022 U19 India Junior International Grand Prix. As a result, Sarunsak Vitidsarn won in a rubber game 23-25, 21-17, 21-10. If she wins again, Vitidsarn will follow in the footsteps of two seniors who previously won the U17 Asia Championships, namely Benyapa Aimsaard in 2018 and Pattarasuda Cahiwan in 2016.
Meanwhile, in the men's singles, first seed Muhammad Faiq from Malaysia also qualified for the final. The difference is, he won’t meet the second seed who is also his own partner, Lok Hong-Quan. Instead, he will face Chinese Taipei badminton player Wei-Cheng Su who also defeated Lok Hong-Quan in the third round. This will be the first meeting for the two.
Faiq’s expected victory over Wei-Cheng Su will later make Muhammad Faiq give Malaysia back-to-back victories. Because in 2019, when the last U-17 Asian Championship was held, Malaysia placed Justin Hoh as the champion. On the other hand, if Wei-Cheng Su wins, it will end Chinese Taipei’s thirst for the title of his country, which was brought the last time by Chen Chi Ting in 2015.
Unfortunately, Muhammad Faiq's chance to win in both singles and doubles couldn’t happen. Paired with Lok Hong-Quan, the first seed surprisingly lost 21-14, 14-21, 21-17 to the seventh seed from Chinese Taipei Lai Po Yu/Yi-Hao Lin. In the final round, Lai Po Yu/Yi-Hao Lin will face sixth seeds from India Arsh Mohammad/Sanskar Saraswat who won 21-15, 21-19 in the semifinals over other Taiwanese doubles Chi-Ruei Chiu/Shao Hua Chiu, seeded eighth.
In the other two events, women's doubles and mixed doubles, there is one name that will play in the final in both categories, Titis Maulida Rahma. In the women's doubles, partnered with Bernadine Anindiya, the Indonesian pair who was seeded at the top position will face the unseeded South Korean pair Kim Min Ji/Kim Min Sun. Meanwhile, in the mixed doubles, Rahma, who is also seeded in first place paired with Darren Aurelius, will face seventh seed from Taiwan Bao Xin Da Gu La Wai/Hsieh Mi Yen.
In the U15 group, the host Thailand has confirmed one title from the women's singles. Two of his representatives, Anyapat Phichitpreechasak, who were the first seeds, will meet Passa-Orn Phannachet. Thailand also has the chance to win two titles through the women's doubles. Passa-Orn Phannachet also qualifies in partnership with Yataweemin Ketklieng, where they will Japanese doubles Sora Hatakeyama/Hana Mizoo.
But in the other three events, men's singles, men's doubles, and mixed doubles, Thailand could not place its athletes in the final. In the singles, Taiwan's Chung-Hsiang Yih will face off against India's Anish Danei Thoppani. In the men's doubles, the Indonesian pair, Muhammad Rizki Mubarrok/Raihan Daffa Edsel Pramono met Jeong Da Hwan/Na Seon Jae. Meanwhile in the mixed doubles Deng Chi Fai/Liu Hoi Kiu Anna, the first seeds from Hong Kong, with Tzu Yuan Huang/Chia Yi Kung from Taiwan. (*)