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Sunil/Tiby Champions for 2011
The ladies retain their title

Monday 14 November, 2011

By T.J Udayaraj

As the shuttlecock descended and kissed the wooden floor for one last time, Tiby took off with shrieks of delight. Both his arms held aloft in triumph, rivulets of sweat dripping from his face, he looked relieved that it was all over. Relieved, to finally give a befitting reply to the frequent dollops of sarcastic taunts from his fierce opponent across the net, but partner and colleague on the work front!!

The beaten finalists, Gijo and Anoop were left standing gobsmacked. In spite of dishing out their A game, they were beaten comprehensively not once but twice in a day. No wonder they looked stunned. All of this would not have been possible, if not for that man, the irrepressible, genial Sunil. He was the defending champion. Yet, never one has seen him play with such ferocity and with such confidence.

Consider this. At the peak of the battle, Anoop from the back court send an overhead smash. As the shuttlecock cannoned in, Sunil charged forward and in a split second smashed it back!! Though he could not pull it off as it found the net's tape, the sheer ability to anticipate it and to be able to smash an incoming smash, spoke volumes of his talent. He did it once before too against Rafeeq in the semifinal.

It was fascinating to watch the 4 players in this gripping drama unfolded in the final. Gijo and Anoop arguably the best team in the competition, not just in physique, skills and experience, but most importantly in mental toughness, were put under severe pressure for probably the first time in the history of this competition. Already beaten once in the round-robin by Sunil and Tiby, they came in to the final with that added pressure. To his credit, Gijo responded brilliantly, by raising his level of play a couple of notches higher. And Anoop, who was a bit off color in the round robin match, came into his own in the final, with some tremendous returns and smashes.

Even during leisure games with no pressure whatsoever, Tiby with a weak serve, was always a sitting duck to Gijo who at the slightest of an opportunity, will unleash a thumping smash as his reply. And if put under pressure in a match situation, Tiby invariably serves it at least a foot high above the net and Gijo used to gobble it up merrily and then will begin his customary gibes. After loosing a tight first game at 18-21, Gijo and Anoop openly targeted Tiby and put him under severe stress, and with the crowd too joining now, it worked wonders as Gijo's team raced to a 7-0 lead and easily won the game at 21-16.

Then it all boiled down to the final set. Gijo and Anoop had their pride at stake. Tiby was under enormous pressure after loosing the previous set. Only Sunil looked confident, frighteningly confident one must say. This time though, Tiby stood firm and served with confidence and once that started to work, rest of his game too fell in place. Some brilliant net play ensued. It was a neck and neck race. And at 16-15, as he was doing all day, the ice cool Sunil took the game by the scruff of the neck with some unbelievable strikes. Tiby chipped in with great support and finally the towering Goliaths were humbled.

This year's competition had a few other great moments too. Deepak's control and precision, the continued dominance by the women's defending champions, Vineetha and Priya etc. One other moment of magic which etched in mind, was in the semifinal, when Abdul Rafeeq did a pirouette and with his back facing the net produced a thundering backhand smash while being airborne. He really packs a punch with his shots. Even Regin too for that matter.

The main scores
Quarter Finals
Deepak/Kloshanth beat Biju/Raj               24-22. 21-16
Sunil/Tiby             beat Anil N.T/Yunus     21-12, 21-9
Gijo/Anoop           beat Rajeev/Prasanth    21-17, 21-4
Abhilash/Rafeeq    beat Sreekumar/Regin  21-15, 21-17
Semi Finals
Sunil/Tiby             beat Abhilash/Rafeeq     21-13, 21-15
Gijo/Anoop           beat Deepak/Kloshanth  21-18, 21-14

Vineetha/Priya      beat Lalitha/Deepa        21-16, 21-7
Sunil/Tiby             beat Gijo/Anoop            21-18, 16-21, 21-15

Earlier in the morning, the soon to be Australia-migrating couple Biju Joy and Lalitha Biju inaugurated this year's competition. This year there were 15 teams in Men's and unfortunately, only 3 teams were there in the Women's section. The matches were played with great spirit and supported well by all the players. Most of the round-robin matches were played at Community Plaza - Ichinoe.and the remaining matches and playoffs were played at Matsue Kumin Plaza.

A big Thank you to all the players, organizing colleagues, and to all others who came in to cheer and support.

The highlights of this year's competition were undoubtedly those two matches between Sunil/Tiby and Gijo/Anoop . High quality badminton and the best final in this competition's history. One of the finest wins for Sunil and Tiby to be proud of, especially Tiby. It was brilliant team work that won the title for them with Tiby being the facilitator! And, Sunil the enforcer!!