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All England: Saina, Jwala-Ashwini only Indians left in draw

Dev Sukumar
Editor's Pick
864   //    08 Mar 2012, 11:31 IST

World No.4 Saina Nehwal ran into unexpected resistance in the first round of the All England, but managed to quell her spirited Thai rival in three games on Wednesday. Saina lost the second game rather tamely but fought back hard to end the contest in just under an hour against her feisty Thai opponent Sapsiree T.

It was a poor day for India on the opening day of the main draw. With the exception of Saina and the women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, all the other Indians crashed out.

The first session of the day saw the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa dismiss the challenge of Indonesians Anneke Agustin/ Nitya Maheswari 21-16 21-16. After an easy first game for the Indians, the Indonesians remained level with them until 12, after which the Commonwealth Games champions powered ahead.

Saina was too good for Sapsiree in the opening game, shooting to leads of 6-1 and 14-5 before the Thai got a look-in on the match. However, once she found her range in the second game, she made things difficult for Saina, and from 10-all, steadily increased her lead and took the second game. “I was quite nervous,” Nehwal said. “I didn’t judge the shuttles well in the second game, but in the third I got my confidence back. It was a very difficult match.”

The early part of the third seemed to be tight, but from 5-all, Saina used her power and experience to run away with the match and book a second round date with veteran Frenchwoman Pi Hongyan.

After the two Indian successes, the rest of the day turned out to be grim. Diju V and Jwala Gutta were bundled out by the Malaysian pair Chan Peng Soon/ Liu Ying Goh in 26 minutes, 21-14 21-12.

Ajay Jayaram, the highest-ranked Indian, was unfortunate to meet four-time world champion Lin Dan, who overpowered him 21-18 21-15. Jayaram’s competitor for India’s Olympic slot, P Kashyap, fought hard against world No.14 Marc Zwiebler but eventually fell 21-13 15-21 21-9 in a match that went over an hour.

Teenaged national champion PV Sindhu, having won two rounds of qualifying, could not sustain her winning momentum and was outclassed in three tight games by Chinese Taipei youngster Tai Tzu Ying 14-21 21-16 21-19. The match was desperately close for Sindhu, who overcame a 16-18 deficit in the decisive third game and clawed to 19-18, but Tzu Ying took the next three points and match.

Austrian Open champs Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas too were bested in a close encounter by German giants Kindervater and Shoettler 24-22 21-17.

Gade, Wang Xin suffer shock upset

Former All England champion Peter Gade of Denmark was one of many seeds to be shown the exit in the first round of the All England on Wednesday. In a match that went late into the night, Gade was stopped by English national champion Rajiv Ouseph, 17-21 21-16 21-14. Another shock result was the exit of top seeds and world No.1 Zhang Nan/ Zhao Yunlei of China to England’s Chris Adcock/ Imogen Bankier 16-21 21-19 21-19, a result that will be celebrated by the hosts because of the PR value it gives them in time for the Olympics.

The day also saw the exit of Jan O Jorgensen, Viktor Axelsen, and – another upset – world No.2 Wang Xin in the women’s singles. Wang Xin’s exit should make the path smoother for Saina Nehwal, who was due to play her in the semifinals. But Saina would have to overcome the defensive abilities of veteran Frenchwoman Pi Hongyan first, and then either Juliane Schenk or Tai Tzu Ying, both of whom have beaten her in the past.

Dev Sukumar
Dev S Sukumar is the recipient of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Media Award, 2011. He is India's most widely travelled badminton writer, having covered several international tournaments, including the Olympics, the Asian Games, the CWG Games, World Championships, the All England, the Denmark Open, the Malaysia Open, etc. He has covered badminton for over ten years now. During this period he has met fascinating characters, witnessed great matches, and has authored a biography of Indian badminton great Prakash Padukone. He has written on the game for several publications, including Sports Illustrated, Mint, Badminton Asia magazine, The New Indian Express, Hindustan Times, DNA and IANS. He tweets at
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