Second seed Sai Praneeth and fourth seed Sameer Verma both booked their places in the second round of the Australian Open 2018 at Sydney on Wednesday, albeit in contrasting fashion. Praneeth did not drop a game on his way to a 21-17, 21-14 win over Israel’s Misha Zilberman.
The World No. 18 next takes on Indonesia’s World No. 69 Panji Ahmad Maulana for a place in the quarter-finals. The 2017 Singapore Open Superseries winner was the best performing Indian at last week’s New Zealand Open, where he reached the semi-finals. He looks intent to carry on that form at the Quay Centre Olympic Park this week.
Sameer had to battle back from a game down to edge New Zealand’s Abhinav Manota 13-21, 21-9, 21-7 in 42 minutes. The Swiss Open champion is looking for his second title of the season.
Verma will next face the former World No. 12 Takuma Ueda, who prevented a showdown between the Verma brothers by beating Sourabh, 19-21, 21-17, 21-12.
Jayaram and Sen lose narrowly
Both Lakshya Sen and Ajay Jayaram ended up on the losing side, despite putting up a brave effort in their respective first round matches. The 16-year-old Sen impressed everyone last week when he took a game off the two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in the second round.
He showed flashes of that brilliance before going down 20-22, 21-13, 19-21 to the seventh seeded Lee Cheuk Yiu.
The former India No. 1 Jayaram, who is now on the comeback trail after a hamstring injury, surrendered 22-20, 20-22, 17-21 to the Japanese qualifier Riichi Takeshita after battling for 1 hour 11 minutes.
Rahul Yadav Chittaboina and Karan Rajan Rajarajan were outclassed by Maulana and Sony Dwi Kuncoro respectively.
In women’s singles, only 15-year-old Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka survived out of the three Indian youngsters. Jakka came back from a game down to prevail over Georgina Bland 19-21, 21-15, 21-15. Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka was beaten 8-21, 19-21 by Ayumi Mine and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli was shown the door 18-21, 20-22 by Yulia Yosephin Susanto.
India had a few wins in doubles as well. In men’s doubles, third seeds Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy and seventh seeds MR Arjun and Shlok Ramchandran advanced to the second round, while eighth seeds Francis Alwin and Nandagopal Kidambi retired from their opener.
National champions Attri and Reddy easily got the better of Lukas Defolky and Michael Fariman 21-11, 21-10. Arjun and Shlok needed just 24 minutes to overpower Raymond Tam and Eric Vuong 21-7, 21-15.
In women’s doubles, Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram too started off their campaign on a winning note. The two accounted for Maggie Chan and Jodee Vega 21-10, 21-16 in a one-sided contest.