Despite putting up a decent fight, Indian men’s challenge came to an end in the first round itself of the India Open Super Series at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Wednesday. Led by K Srikanth, Indian men were expected to go deep into the tournament but were not able to finish off close matches against their experienced and higher-ranked opponents.
The biggest disappointment of the day came with the premature exit of the country’s top-ranked men’s singles player K Srikanth. The world no. 10, who had defeated Tian Houwei during the Badminton Asia Team Championships in February, played out of his skin before losing 13-21 21-17 22-24 to the All England finalist from China in a hard-fought match that lasted one hour and 23 minutes.
Even before the fans could recover from the Srikanth’s defeat, HS Prannoy went down fighting 21-23 21-18 13-21 to Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk of Thailand as coach Pullela Gopichand watched helplessly from the courtside. Prannoy, who had won the Swiss Open last week, came into the tournament with high expectations and looked like making a comeback after losing the first game. However, he could not cope with his Thai opponent’s clinical approach and went down rather tamely.
Worryingly for them, the first round exit also put Srikanth and Prannoy’s dreams of qualifying for the Olympics in danger as they stand to lose a lot of ranking points. Earlier in the day, B Sai Praneeth, who had stunned two-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei in the opening round of All England Championship, lost 20-22 13-21 to Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia, while Ajay Jayaram blew away a 11-7 and a 19-17 lead in the decider to go down 12-21 21-13 19-21 to German Marc Zwiebler in the opening round.
Sourabh Verma was the only player who did not manage to trouble his opponent. But again, he wasn’t expected to. Drawn against China’s Lin Dan, the 23-year-old lost 18-21 9-21 to make it a rather forgettable day for Indian shuttlers.
While the men could not live up to the expectations, Nehwal and PV Sindhu along with unheralded Rituparna Das ensured there was some Indian interest left in singles. London Games bronze medallist Saina thrashed compatriot Tanvi Lad 21-7 21-13 in a lop-sided 34-minute match, while Rituparna defeated compatriot Anura Prabhudesai 21-18 21-15 in another women’s singles match. Sindhu too reached the pre-quarterfinals after making mincemeat of Italy’s Jeanine Cicognini 21-8 21-8. Saina will next face Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol, Rituparna will meet former All England champion and fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, while two-time World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu will be up against Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungphan.
In men’s doubles, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar, who reached the finals of the Syed Modi GP Gold, beat Arjun Kumar Reddy Malgari and Santosh Ravuri 21-17 21-16 to set up a fight with Korean second seeds Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang.