The two golden girls of Indian badminton set up two blockbuster second round matches by winning their openers at the $325,000 Japan Open Superseries in Tokyo on Wednesday. While the unseeded Saina Nehwal had it easy and pummeled the 25th-ranked Pornpawee Chochuwong 21-17, 21-9 in her first round, the fourth seeded PV Sindhu had a tougher route while posting a 12-21, 21-15, 21-17 victory over the 19th-ranked Minatsu Mitani.
Sindhu now faces the reigning world champion Nozomi Okuhara for the third tournament in a row as she aims for a quarter-final berth. Nehwal has an equally tough opponent as she meets the Rio Olympic gold medalist Carolina Marin.
Srikanth beats nemesis Houwei
The India No. 1 men’s singles ace Srikanth Kidambi too returned to action for the first time since finishing as a quarter-finalist at the World Championships, and he beat an opponent that has been a perpetual thorn in his career. The eighth-seeded Srikanth needed 1 hour 4 minutes to get the better of the World No. 10 Tian Houwei, 21-15, 12-21, 21-11.
The Chinese had a lopsided 6-1 head-to-head record against Srikanth prior to this showdown.
Sameer, Prannoy progress
HS Prannoy and Sameer Verma were the other Indian singles winners of the day. The US Open champion Prannoy rebounded from an opening round defeat at the Korea Open with a convincing 21-12, 21-14 win over the World No. 15 Anders Antonsen.
Up next for Prannoy is the World No. 27 Hsu Jen Hao, who ousted the sixth seed NG Ka Long Angus.
Sameer Verma registered a comfortable 21-12, 21-19 win over Thai qualifier Khosit Phetpradab and is now set to cross swords with the second-seeded Shi Yuqi.
Sourabh, Sai depart
Sameer’s elder brother Sourabh squandered a one-game lead, succumbing to a 21-11, 15-21, 13-21 defeat to the seventh-seeded Lin Dan.
Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth couldn't maintain his momentum either, and went down fighting to Korean qualifier Lee Dong Keun 23-21, 17-21, 14-21 in a marathon 85-minute duel.
Mixed doubles win for India
The only Indian doubles win of the day came in mixed doubles where qualifiers Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa prevailed 21-17, 21-13 over the Thai combine of Tinn Isriyanet and Pacharapun Chochuwong.
Satwiksairaj also put up a massive effort in men’s doubles alongside Chirag Shetty; the two held a game point in a hard-fought first frame. However, they eventually lost to the third seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo 25-27, 15-21.
Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy could not offer any resistance to the eighth seeds Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang, and lost 18-21, 15-21.
In women’s doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy were beaten 17-21, 12-21 by the third seeds Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee.