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Bhagat, Yathiraj, Nagar to fight for gold; Dhillon, Sarkar in bronze matches

Bhagat, Yathiraj, Nagar to fight for gold; Dhillon, Sarkar in bronze matches

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Indian badminton players Pramod Bhagat, Suhas Yathiraj and Krishna Nagar entered the badminton men’s singles finals in their respective classifications at the Tokyo Paralympics on Saturday.

Among other Indians in the fray, Manoj Sarkar and Tarun Dhillon suffered contrasting losses in their respective semifinal matches. Sarkar will play for bronze at 3pm IST later on Saturday, while Dhillon will fight for bronze on Sunday. Later on Saturday, Bhagat and Palak Kohli lost their mixed doubles SL3-SU5 semifinal 21-3, 21-15 to Indonesia’s Susanto Hary and Oktila Leani Ratri. The duo will contest the bronze medal match against Japan’s Daisuke Fujihara and Akiko Sugino on Sunday (time TBD).

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The 33-year-old Bhagat, the current World No. 1, secured a 21-11, 21-16 win over Japan’s Fujihara in the first men’s singles SL3 class semifinal, which lasted 36 minutes.

With only half of the court being used in SL3 classification, which is for persons with standing/lower limb impairment, Bhagat and Fujihara engaged in a lot of long rallies and the Indian came up on top most of the time. Bhagat, the top seed, trailed 2-4 early in the opening game but a series of overhead drops helped him claw back. The duo were 8-8 before the Indian entered the interval at 11-8.

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After the break, he continued his good run and eventually pocketed the opening game with six straight points. It was a Bhagat show in the second game as well as the Indian led all the way to prevail.

“It was a great game against Fujihara, he pushed me with some great shots. But I had a plan and I executed it very well. I am happy I have reached my maiden Paralympic finals but the work is not done yet,” said Bhagat after his match.

Bhagat will pair up with Palak Kohli for their mixed doubles SL3-SU5 semifinals later in the day. Bhagat, also the current World and Asian champion, will lock horns with Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell in the gold medal match at 3pm IST on Saturday.

In the other men’s singles SL3 semifinal, Sarkar couldn’t get into any sort of rhythm against second-seeded Bethell, going down 8-21, 10-21. The 31-year-old Sarkar will now play Fujihara in the bronze medal playoff.

In the SL4 class, Yathiraj outwitted Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan 21-9, 21-15 in 31 minutes in the first semifinal. Yathiraj, who is the Noida District Magistrate, will face top seed Lucas Mazur of France in the final on Sunday.

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In the other SL4 semifinal, Mazur managed to stave off a spirited effort from Dhillon, claiming a narrow 21-16, 16-21, 21-18 win over the second-seeded Indian in a gruelling semifinal that lasted an hour and three minutes at the Yoyogi National Stadium.

The 27-year-old from Hisar will face Setiawan in the bronze medal playoff on Sunday.

Krishna, seeded second, dished out a superlative performance, outplaying Great Britain’s Krysten Coombs 21-10, 21-11 in the semifinals of the SH6 classification, which is for players of a short stature. The 22-year-old Indian will take on Hong Kong’s Chu Man Kai in the final on Sunday.

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