It was so near yet so far for Rasika Raje. The 20-year-old city shuttler squandered away a golden opportunity to pocket her maiden international badminton crown at Bierun, Poland, on Sunday.
The unseeded Nagpur southpaw went down fighting against seventh seed Rituparna Das in an all-India final clash at the Polish Open Badminton tournament.
Rituparna, world No. 149, rallied back strongly to stop Rasika 11-21, 21-7, 21-17 in her strides in a 40-minute encounter. Regular practice partners at the Hyderabad-based Pullela Gopichand Academy, Rituparna and Rasika know each other’s game quite well.
Rasika, ranked 201 in the world, got off to a fluent start and wrapped up the first game at 21-11. However, Rituparna, a former junior national champion, staged a terrific comeback and grabbed the second in no time to level the game-score 1-1.
In the decider, Rasika was ahead by three points and looked all set to clinch her first overseas title. But nerves seemed to have got the better of LAD College student as she committed some unforced errors towards the end of the match.
It was the second time the two friends are meeting in the international tournament. In the Sushant Chipalkatti memorial junior international tournament held in Pune in 2012, Rituparna had beaten Rasika 21-16, 21-15.
In the first round of Polish Open on Friday, Rasika thrashed Russia’s Ksenia Evgenova 21-11, 21-18. Later in the day, Rasika rallied back splendidly to sideline Vladyslava Lesnaya of Ukraine 12-21, 21-14, 21-12.
In the quarters on Saturday, Rasika quelled the spirited challenge from Soniia Su Ya Cheah of Malaysia 21-17, 28-26 in 45 minutes.
In the Belgian International tournament which ended on September 21, Malaysian Cheah had won the title. Incidentally, Cheah had ousted Rituparna in the first round in the previous tourney.
Boosted by the win over Cheah, Rasika shocked fifth seed Natalya Voytsekh 21-16, 21-18 in the semifinal late on Saturday night. In a battle which lasted for 32 minutes, Rasika was always in control against her Ukrainian rival.Rasika, a semifinalist at the last Senior Nationals held at Chandigarh, was jubilant with her performance in Poland.
“I would like to dedicate my first silver medal to Gopi Sir and assistant coaches Rajan and Siyadath. I am also thankful to my earlier Nagpur coaches Robin Simon and Prasad Sadhankar. My parents and my sisters always encouraged me to give the best always whatever the situations are. I am also grateful to my sponsors Vishvaraj Infrastructure and Arun Lakhani,” Rasika told TOI on Sunday.
She said she was little nervous after losing in the first round in the Belgium Open last week.
“Losing in the first round in Belgium was tough to digest. It was a great feeling to reach the final of Polish International. It’s like a dream come true for me. Now my focus is on next week’s Prague International and definitely I will give my best,” said Rasika, a winner of Junior All India ranking tournament in Bangalore in 2013.
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