All England Open: Debutantes Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand go on attack, seal memorable win

The turnaround came at 12-18 down in the second game for All England debutantes Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand. Playing against India Open champions from Thailand, Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard, the Indian pairing was staring at a nondescript exit. Except, young Treesa was on a count-back of their chances. Three more, she reckoned from 18 to 21, before they were packed off.

“At 12-18 down in second, I was thinking it’s not over yet. There are still three points to go. ‘Come on, we can do it,’” Treesa said after registering an upset 17-21, 22-20, 21-14 win over the Uber Cup medalling siblings at Birmingham.

It was all-out, unrestricted attack from the second half of the second game that buried the Thai sisters’ hopes of advancing at the All England. It was an unexpected win for the rookies, but it was also the unexpected manner of the victory from the brink of retreating into the wings for the doubles pair.

At 20-19 in the second, after Treesa had gone berserk peppering the Thais with downward hits, an almighty rally fetched up where all that catching up could’ve been reduced to nought. Long rallies test character, use up energy, rattle composure. But the Indians didn’t blink.

“When they were leading the second set 20-19, we played a very good rally at that point. 20-30 shuttles back and forth, but we got the point. From there, we took the game 22-20,” Treesa emphatically said.

For the young pairing, a mere fightback was not going to be enough. They demanded a decider, and then never slowed down again. The 11-10 break was a prompt for the hits to start raining down again. “After 10-11 down in the third, we changed the game again to attack. When we started attacking, suddenly we got the points,” she recalls. The Thais could sneak in just three more points.

Treesa is known to play a withering game from the back, and the combination – only a year old – was glad to get the results in their maiden season in the seniors. “I started playing badminton because of my father who is a physical education teacher. And he wanted to see his daughters become sportspersons. I paired up with Gayatri at the start of January 2021, and it’s going well,” she said.

Late entrants after withdrawals opened up a spot, the duo made the most of their chances. “First All England and we were excited. Such a big stage. I just wanted to play best. Play free. Play my full game,” Treesa said.

The court-work is neatly divided. “I’m the attacking one. My partner catches all the shuttles in the front at the net and sets it up for me and absorbs the pressure. After the third set 11-all, we played only attack. I’m comfortable like that. But the court is very slow. It was easy for opponents to lift. But we just didn’t stop. Attacking we played well,” she added.

On Thursday, the young Indians play their Indonesian role models. “Tomorrow, we are going to play with my favourite players Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu.” Treesa says. The best respects can be paid by nicking a bunch of points, perhaps games out of them. “All those days at the academy, running, and three sessions in the gym, hopefully it helps.”

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