Thailand Open 2019: Nehwal, Srikanth advance; Rankireddy and Ponnappa cause big upset
Sai Praneeth, HS Prannoy and Parupalli Kashyap also made it to the pre-quarter-finals but the biggest result for the Indian contingent was the upset of the mixed doubles fifth seeds Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying at the hands of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.
Saina, who last played at the New Zealand Open in early May, had opted out of both the Indonesia Open and the Japan Open to completely recover from injury niggles. 17-year-old rising talent Phittayaporn Chaiwan, ranked 67th in the world, did give her a tough fight but the seventh seed was able to edge her at the business end of each game for a 21-17, 21-19 win in 39 minutes.
Up next for the former World No. 1 is the 18th ranked Sayaka Takahashi of Japan for a place in the quarter-finals.
Men’s singles fifth seed Kidambi Srikanth had been struggling with his precision and footwork ever since he reached the final of the India Open in the first week of April. After early exits in Jakarta and Tokyo, he got a huge scare even in the first round at the Thai capital before rebounding for a narrow 21-13, 17-21, 21-19 win that took 1 hour 8 minutes to complete.
If the Guntur-born shuttler wants to find a berth in the last-eight, he needs to keep his errors at bay when he meets Thailand’s World No. 32 Khosit Phetpradab.
After being the only Indian to reach the semi-finals at the Japan Open last week, Sai Praneeth laboured to a 17-21, 21-17, 21-15 win over World No. 15 Kantaphon Wangcharoen to set up a meeting with Subhankar Dey. The latter got a walkover into the second round following a late withdrawal by the top seed and World No. 1 Kento Momota.
HS Prannoy, who got knocked out after stunning Srikanth last week, staved off some stiff resistance from Hong Kong veteran Wong Wing Ki Vincent in a 21-16, 22-20 win. He faces sixth seed Kenta Nishimoto in the second round.
Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap set up a pre-quarter-final showdown with third seed Chou Tien Chen after an 18-21, 21-8, 21-14 comeback win over Misha Zilberman.
Eighth seed Sameer Verma made a bright start against World No. 17 Lee Zii Jia, only to get outplayed in the decider before losing 23-21, 11-21, 5-21. His elder brother Sourabh also suffered the same misfortune, crashing out 21-23, 21-19, 5-21 to seventh seed Kanta Tsuneyama.
Rankireddy and Ponnappa shine
In doubles, Ponnappa and Rankireddy brought delight to Indian fans with their gritty 21-18, 18-21, 21-17 victory over the World No. 5 pair of Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying. This was the second win for the Indian pair over the formidable Malaysians more than a year after they upset them at the Commonwealth Games Mixed Team event.
On a flawless day for Indian mixed doubles teams, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy also recorded a 21-16, 21-13 win over Japan’s Kohei Gondo and Ayane Kurihara.