Saina Nehwal's All England Open 2021 campaign came to an abrupt halt. She was forced to retire hurt mid-match against Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt. Saina Nehwal became the third veteran Indian player to falter in the first round of the All England Open 2021.
Things got off to a rocky start for India as earlier in the day, former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap also suffered losses in Birmingham.
However, in the second half of the day, aside from Nehwal, the Indian shuttlers had a smooth run. HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, B Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma notched impressive straight-game wins against their opponents.
Saina Nehwal retires hurt at the All England Open 2021
Hours before Nehwal's opening round match against Denmark's Mia Bilchfeldt at the All England Open 2021, she complained about not having practiced or been to the gym in two days due to Covid-19 protocols.
The All England Open 2021 draw was predicted to be tricky for Saina, especially with world no. 12 Bilchfeldt as her opening-round opponent. Saina, the 2015 All England Open finalist who hasn't enjoyed the best of form recently, put on a poor showing against the dominating Bilchfeldt.
The first game of the match saw Nehwal lose 8-21. She could barely find her groove in the second game as Bilchfeldt sprinted off to a 4-10 lead. It was apparent that Nehwal wasn't moving too well and there were hints of clumsiness in her shots. Soon enough, the 31-year-old shuttler decided to retire hurt.
With the All England Open 2021 not being a Tokyo qualifier event, Saina Nehwal's qualification dreams are still intact. But she does need to rehabilitate and aim for a comeback at the earliest.
Prannoy, Sen and Praneeth stay on course at the All England Open 2021
Out of the six-member Indian men's singles contingent, four advanced to the second round of the All England Open 2021. While Srikanth and Kashyap crashed out against Nhat Nguyen and world no. 1 Kento Momota respectively, the others stayed on course.
World no. 31 HS Prannoy defeated Malaysia's Liew Daren in straight games, 21-10, 21-10. With this comprehensive victory, Prannoy has now set up a second-round encounter with Kento Momota.
The 2019 BWF World Championships bronze medalist, B Sai Praneeth, also got off to a flying start. Although France's Toma Junior Popov put up a stiff challenge, Praneeth handled him with his usual grace, winning 21-18, 22-20.
Meanwhile, Sameer Verma also registered a straight-game victory against 24-year-old Brazilian Ygor Coelho De Oliveira, winning 21-11, 21-19.
19-year-old Lakshya Sen's opening-round win was impressive too. He defeated Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-18, 21-12.