All England Open 2018: Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu, HS Prannoy enter second round; Saina Nehwal exits
A round-up of the Indian performances on Day 1 of this tournament
Kidambi Srikanth was a point away from exiting the All England Open 2018 in the first round before he survived the scare to enter the second round of the world’s oldest badminton tournament in Birmingham on Wednesday. PV Sindhu too needed three games for her opening round win while HS Prannoy sent the eighth seeded Chou Tien Chen packing for his first win of the year.
2015 runner-up Saina Nehwal squandered a lead in the second game before bowing out to the top seed and World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying.
In doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty continue their heroics as they entered Round 2. The top Indian mixed doubles pair of N Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra too registered a win on Day 1 of the season’s first Super 1000 event.
Srikanth survives match point
The third seeded Srikanth was in real danger of making a shock departure from the tournament when he faced a match point against the 23rd ranked Brice Leverdez deep into the third game of their first round clash. The top Indian was a pale shadow of himself in the first game and was completely outplayed by the Frenchman, who bagged the game 21-7.
In the second, Srikanth came storming back and showed his usual aggression to take the game 21-14 and force a decider. In the third game, the Indian built a lead of 11-6 going into the interval but allowed Leverdez to even the score at 12-12.
Srikanth kept on fluffing chances through unforced errors and the competitive game was all level till 19-19. Leverez then had a match point at 20-19 which the Indian saved through a lob.
After all that effort, the Frenchman pushed the shuttle wide on the next two points to send Srikanth into the second round with a 7-21, 21-14, 22-20 win. Srikanth will take on Huang Yuxiang of China next.
The fourth seeded Sindhu too was surprisingly stretched to the final game by the 20-year-old Pornpawee Chochuwong, a former World Junior Championships silver medallist. Sindhu began well and raced to 4-0 before extending her lead to 10-4 only to see the young Thai level matters at 15-15.
Chochuwong held a game point at 20-19 which the lanky Indian saved in style, but the World No. 22 was successful on her second chance and bagged the game 22-20.
Sindhu pushed behind the setback and found her usual rhythm soon after, opening up a 15-7 lead in the second game. In the decider, she was firmly in control and ran through the game to notch up a 20-22, 21-17, 21-9 win. The Indian will meet Nitchaon Jindapol of Thailand for a place in the quarter-finals.
Prannoy shocks German Open champion
HS Prannoy was derailed in the first couple of months due to warts on his feet, which were responsible for his first round upset at the India Open in February. The Kerala shuttler, who self-admittedly is still not at his 100% fitness, still managed to bring his firepower to stun the eighth seed and last week’s German Open winner, Chou Tien Chen 9-21, 21-18, 21-18.
After having no answer to the Chinese Taipei ace in the first game, Prannoy settled into the match and held his nerves even when the going got tough, showing his mental fortitude. He will meet Tommy Sugiarto in the second round. A win there can set him up against Kidambi Srikanth in the last-eight, provided the India No. 1 too wins his respective second round match.
Saina squanders a lead in second game
Former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal showed glimpses of improved fitness and footwork but wasn’t able to overhaul the challenge of Tai Tzu Ying, falling to a 14-21, 18-21 loss. Nehwal showed a much better account of herself in the second game, where she had a 16-11 advantage.
The defending champion, however, recovered from the deficit soon after and made her whipping crosscourt shots do the talking and kept on moving the Indian all over the court to tire her out. Saina still kept the game on par till 18-18 after which Tai just brought forth her guile and finesse to complete the win.
This was Nehwal’s seventh consecutive defeat at the hands of the irrepressible Tai.
Singapore Open Superseries winner B Sai Praneeth raised hopes of a big upset when he grabbed the first game 21-13 against the fifth seeded Son Wan Ho. But the Korean eventually proved too strong for him as he carved out a 13-21, 21-15, 21-11 victory.
Double delight in doubles
In mixed doubles, Chopra and Reddy breezed through their opener and posted a 21-19, 21-13 win over the German pair of Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler. They have a tough task up next as they face the second seeds Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping.
Reddy did not have the same good fortunes in women’s doubles as she and Ashwini Ponnappa crashed to a 14-21, 13-21 defeat against the second seeds Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi.
The top Indian men’s doubles pair of Rankireddy and Shetty got their first win at the All England Open when they prevailed over Japan’s Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi 21-19, 21-18. The win has set up a blockbuster second round showdown with the second seeds and former champions Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen.
Both their previous two clashes went the distance, with the highlight being their quarter-final encounter at last year’s French Open Superseries.
National men’s doubles champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy fell 20-22, 12-21 to the English combine of Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge. In women’s doubles, Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram were outclassed 14-21, 11-21 by the fifth seeds Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto.