Double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu was knocked out but defending champion Lakshya Sen and London bronze medallist Saina Nehwal made winning starts at the India Open here on Tuesday.
World No. 7 Sindhu, a former champion, went down 12-21, 20-22 to Thailand’s world No. 30 Supanida Katethong in the Super 750 badminton tournament. The Indian had lost to the same player in the semi-finals of the last edition.
It was Sindhu’s second first-round exit following the opening-round loss to Carolina Marin at the Malaysia Open Super 1000 last week.
World No. 12 Sen, seeded seventh, settled the score against world No. 9 HS Prannoy after his opening-round reversal at the Malaysia Open, with a 21-14, 21-15 win at the KD Jadhav Indoor hall in IG Stadium.
It was also a good day for former champion Saina, who eked out a fighting 21-17, 12-21, 21-19 win over world No. 24 Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in her opening match.
Sindhu, who is on a comeback trail after recovering from a stress fracture on her ankle, didn’t look at her best as she struggled against the left-handed Supanida, who was precise in her returns and looked in more control in the rallies.
A poor start saw the Indian trail 4-11 at the interval and even though she reduced the deficit to two points, Supanida reeled off four straight points from 17-14 to take the opening game.
Supandia, who is coached by Sindhu’s former Korean coach Kim Ji Hyun, didn’t allow the Indian to attack, curbing her lifts and engaging her in rallies in slow conditions.
The former world champion fought hard in the second game as she moved from 12-17 to grab one game point at 19-20. She had, in fact, left the court after the opponent’s return was called out.
But a video referral showed that the shuttle had actually kissed the line, handing her opponent a chance to close the match. And she did it in style after Sindhu went wide.
Reigning champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty also produced a clinical display to storm into the second round after beating Scotland’s Christopher Grimley and Matthew Grimley 21-13, 21-15 in their men’s doubles opener.
The other doubles pairs, Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Goud Panjala, and Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand also claimed first-round wins.
While Krishna and Vishnu beat the Dutch pairing of Ruben Jille and Ties Van Der Lecq 21-11, 23-25, 21-19, Treesa and Gayatri notched up a 22-20, 17-21, 21-18 win over France’s world No. 29 Margot Lambert and Anne Tran in their opener.
Commonwealth Games champion Sen will next take on Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, who knocked out two-time world champion Kento Momota of Japan 21-15, 21-11 earlier in the day.
Prannoy didn’t have a good start, committing too many unforced errors to fall behind from the start.
Sen, on the other hand, looked to attack and remained steady in the rallies, producing some good winners to stay ahead at 15-9.
Sen brought down the shuttle with a thud every time it was in range, while Prannoy was erratic. Soon Sen moved to nine game points; he wasted three of them before Prannoy went to net again.
The second game looked more competitive at the start but Sen broke off at 9-9 and never looked back.
“I could settle from the beginning, get my length and defence properly. In the Malaysia Open, I wasn’t able to control the shuttle. Today, my smashes and half smashes were working,” Sen said after the match.
Anup Sridhar, who has been roped in to train Sen in the pre-Olympic year, said it is important for his ward to stick to his natural game and make a good start.
“He was a lot more confident today. We had some good sessions last week. That’s helped him. He was aggressive, attacking and taking his chances, that made the difference,” Lakshya’s new coach Sridhar told PTI.
“He has corrected the mistakes that he did last week and Lakshya is an attacking player; that’s his natural style. If he starts defensive then that is not something that works. He needs an attacking start.
“This year the focus will be to stay physically fit more than anything else.” Satwik and Chirag, who had claimed a semifinal finish last week in Kuala Lumpur, will be up against either China’s Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi or England’s Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.
“We would want to win 3-4 more events and reach world No. 3 this year. We want to win a major event like the All England Championships and better the medal at World Championships,” Chirag said.
“Our main aim is to play as deep in the tournament as possible. Last week it was a semifinal finish but now our goals have changed and, when we enter the tournament, anything less than a title gives us a bittersweet taste.” Among other Indians, N Sikki Reddy and her new women’s doubles partner Shruti Mishra went down fighting 17-21, 19-21 to Germany’s Linda Efler and Isabel Lohau.
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