New Zealand Open 2018: Ajay Jayaram, Sameer Verma, Sai Praneeth advance; Lakshya Sen to meet Lin Dan

YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships - Day Two- 2017
Ajay Jayaram

Former India No. 1 men’s singles shuttler Ajay Jayaram caused a huge upset at the New Zealand Open 2018 as he beat the fourth seed Hsu Jen Hao to enter the second round of this Super 300 tournament in Auckland on Wednesday. The 30-year-old came back from a game down to edge the 26th ranked Chinese Taipei player 21-23, 21-12, 21-18 in 1 hour 2 minutes.

Jayaram, who reached a career-high World No. 13 ranking last year, has been on and off on the BWF Tour for several months now, having been bothered by a stubborn hamstring injury. His ranking has now nosedived to 77th and this is just his third tournament of the year.

Third seed B Sai Praneeth and fifth seed Sameer Verma too joined him in Round 2. The 2017 Singapore Open Superseries titlist emerged a 21-11, 21-19 winner over Israel’s Misha Zilberman. Verma, who won the Swiss Open in February, was in impeccable form and needed just 29 minutes to show the door to Sony Dwi Kuncoro in a 21-8, 21-10 win.

Sameer’s elder brother, Sourabh was not so lucky and he fell 19-21, 21-14, 19-21 to New Zealand’s Abhinav Manota. Subhankar Dey too exited with an 18-21, 10-21 loss to the sixth seed Tommy Sugiarto and Karan Rajan Rajarajan’s fightback went in vain as he went down 20-22, 21-12, 8-21 to the eighth seed Kantaphon Wangcharoen.

Lakshya Sen to meet Lin Dan

India’s rising star, Lakshya Sen won his first round with consummate ease to set up a tantalizing second round showdown with the two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan. The 16-year-old Sen needed just 37 minutes to get the better of Malaysia’s June Wei Cheam, that should give him some confidence before his first ever meeting with the Chinese legend.

The former junior World No. 1 Sen played through a shoulder injury in the last few months of 2017 and was advised to take rest after that in order to recover from it fully. This is only his third competitive event of the year.

However, India’s women’s singles challenge came to an end with twin defeats of Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka and Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka. While the former lost 16-21, 19-21 to Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen, the latter was outplayed 14-21, 13-21 by Yukino Nakai.

Attri-Reddy progress

India had a couple of wins in doubles as well. Fifth seeds and Indian national champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy notched up a comfortable 21-14, 21-15 win over the Kiwi combine of Jonathan Curtin and Dhanny Oud. Eighth seeded pair of Francis Alwin and Nandagopal Kidambi, however, was stunned 15-21, 13-21 by the Indonesian pair of Sabar Karyaman Gutama and Frengky Wijaya Putra.

The pairs of Arjun MR-Shlok Ramchandran and Rohan Kapoor-Shivam Sharma both went out in the first round.

In women’s doubles, Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram got their campaign off to a winning start with a 21-17, 21-14 drubbing of Erena Calder-Hawkins and Jasmin Chung Man NG.

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