Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cracking the top 35

Singapore Open: The Singapore Open was to be held in the Singapore Indoor stadium as it has been for many years now. This is a very big stadium with a huge gallery and also with a lot of wind inside the playing hall. I had lost in the first round here last year.

This year, in the first round, I was to play world No.19 and 5/8 seed Dicky Palyama of the Netherlands. Again, I had seen him play before but this was our first match against each other. I won 30-28, 21-17 to make it the best win of my career so far.

The first game, as the score suggests, was very close and I saved five game points and needed nine game points before I closed it out. Winning such a close first game meant that I had a big psychological advantage at the start of the second game. I went up by a big margin immediately and closed out the second game at 21-17.
I played Lu Yi, another young Chinese player, in the second round. Lu Yi had just beaten Chetan Anand in the Indonesia Open and was in good form. I had a good strategy for this match and I handled the drift (wind) in the hall well to win 21-18, 21-16.

In the third round, the last 16 stage, I played Andrew Smith of England. Smith has been around on the circuit for a long time and can be a difficult opponent. But by this time I had adjusted very well to the playing conditions and I won quite easily, 21-9, 21-16, to enter the quarterfinal.

I lost to Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark, the world No.5, 15-21, 15-21 in the quarterfinal the next day. I was a little unlucky in the second game with three line calls going against me. These bad calls can make so much of a difference when the scores are level and I was not able to recover in time and lost in straight games.
Still, reaching the quarterfinal was a great result and my world ranking went up another eight places to 35, which is my best-ever ranking. Apart from Chetan, who reached the last 16 stage, the other Indians lost in the first and second rounds.

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