Thomas and Uber Cup 2018: Disastrous start for Indian men and women; Saina Nehwal upset by Michelle Li
The Indian men’s and women’s teams both got off to a worst possible start as the Thomas and Uber Cup 2018 got under way at Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday. While the men were hammered 1-4 by France, the women were pummelled by an identical scoreline of 1-4 by Canada in their respective Group A opening matches.
With such results, India’s chances of qualifying for the knock-out stages now look bleak.
The Indian contingent did not have most of their top stars, with Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu being rested. Even in doubles, the Commonwealth Games silver medal-winning men’s doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty and the bronze medal-winning women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy were missing from the squad.
The onus lay on the shoulders of the Asian Championships bronze medallist HS Prannoy and the Commonwealth Games champion Saina Nehwal to lead the youngsters to an improbable win.
But India’s slim chances looked very much over when Prannoy did not feature in the line-up against France. It was all left on the 2017 Singapore Open Superseries winner, B Sai Praneeth and the 2018 Swiss Open champion, Sameer Verma to do the needful for India, apart from the 16-year-old Lakshya Sen.
In doubles, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, who had a fantastic outing in New Zealand and Australia, could not make it to Bangkok because of Attri’s injury. The doubles duty thus had to done by the pair of Shlok Ramchandran-MR Arjun and Arun George-Sanyam Shukla.
Sai was the only Indian to emerge victorious from that tie. The World No. 18 needed just 32 minutes to prevail over Brice Leverdez 21-7, 21-18.
It all went downhill from there for Team India as none of the others managed to secure a win, even though there were some great battles. Sameer Verma fought for 61 minutes before going down 18-21, 20-22, 18-21 to the 43rd ranked Lucas Corvee and Sen was edged 20-22, 21-19, 19-21 by Toma Junior Popov.
In doubles, Shlok and Ramchandran fell 13-21, 16-21 to Bastian Kersaudy and Julien Maio and George and Shukla were beaten 10-21, 12-21 by Thom Gicquel and Ronan Labar.
If Indian shuttlers thought of enjoying better fortunes in Uber Cup, they were in for a shock. The highly-fancied Saina Nehwal was stunned 15-21, 21-16, 21-16 by Michelle Li, ranked 14th. The Canadian No. 1 had never even taken a game off the former World No. 1 in their two previous meetings.
The only win of the day for India was provided by the pair of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram. They put up some determined display to beat Michelle Tong and Josephine Wu 21-19, 21-15.
In the rest of the matches, Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka lost 11-21, 13-21 to Rachel Honderich and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli was beaten 11-21, 15-21 by Brittney Tam. In the second doubles match of the tie, Sanyogita Ghorpade and Prajakta Sawant were outplayed 15-21, 16-21 by Honderich and Tsai.
Both the Indian teams will take on Australia on Monday.