‘We’re going for the title’: Gayatri Gopichand says after making All England badminton semis with Treesa Jolly

The Indian women’s doubles pairing of Gayatri Gopichand Pullela and Treesa Jolly entered their second successive semi-finals of the All England Championships on Friday and the former boldly proclaimed that they were eyeing the title. The Indians needed three games to shrug off the challenge of China’s Li Wen Mei and Liu Xuan Xuan, winning 21-14, 18-21, 21-12 to set up a clash against the Korean pair of Baek Na Ha and Lee So Hee in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Only two Indians have even won at the prestigious tournament: Prakash Padukone in 1980, and Gayatri’s father, Pullela Gopichand, in 2001 twenty one years later. Three Indians have come within touching distance of winning the event: Prakash Nath in 1947, Saina Nehwal in 2015 and Lakshya Sen last year, all three losing in the final.

But Gayatri said they were ready to emulate Padukone and her father.

“We’re going for the title,” she told BWF after their quarters.

She added that playing at the All England this year “felt normal” compared to last year when they sneaked into the main draw after being reserves.

“Last time the excitement was so high… We wanted to play the All England at least once. But this time we knew we’d get an entry for this tournament, and we’d prepared well. Last year we just couldn’t sleep as we were so excited. But this time feels normal.”

In 2022, the Indians had accounted for the scalps of Tokyo Olympics champions Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu (where the Indians had held the lead until Rahayu picked up an injury and had to retire) in the pre-quarters, and second seeded Lee Sohee and Shin Seungchan in the quarters.

They matched that semi-final appearance this year too by ending the challenges of higher-placed pairs like 7th seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Ravindra Prajongjai (who they beat 21-18, 21-14 in Round 1) and Japan’s Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, who are former World No 1s.

“We’re confident that we’re as good as any of the top pairs, definitely. We’re going to give our 100 per cent no matter what, and we’re going to keep fighting till the end. Let’s see what happens,” said the older of the two.

The opponents they vanquished in the quarters also praised the Indians.

“They were very clear about their tactics. One of them controlled the net (Gayatri) and the other was smashing really hard (Treesa). Our defence wasn’t good enough, and they could score a lot of points,” admitted Li Wen Mei.

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