India Open: Sindhu crashes out, Saina advances, Lakshya beats Prannoy on a mixed day for India (Ld)

Two of the country’s biggest women’s badminton players returned to the India Open with contrasting fortunes on the opening day of the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2023 with former champion P.V Sindhu crashing out in the first round while Saina Nehwal advancing to the next round at the K.D Jadhav Hall at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here.

Sindhu, who returned to action at home after missing the entire second half of 2022 season due to an injury suffered at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August, lost to Supanida Katethong of Thailand in straight games, losing 21-14, 22-20. Saina overcame Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in three games, 21-17, 12-21, 21-19 in just over one hour.

It was overall a mixed day for India as Lakshya Sen, Satwisairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty, Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand Pullela and Krishna Prasad Garaga/Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala too advanced to the next stage.

However, besides Sindhu, H.S Prannoy, India’s highest-ranked men’s player, women’s doubles pair Shruti Mishra/Sikki Reddy; the mixed doubles pair of Ishaan Bhatnagar/Tanisha Crasto and the women’s doubles combine of Haritha Manazhiyil and Ashna Roy crashed out on the opening day.

Former World Champion and two-time Olympic medallist Sindhu opened her campaign against a player to whom she had lost-to in the last-four stage here last year and found the going tough again. The Thai left-hander was a deceptive player and used her superb form and technique superbly to overcome the Indian player, winning the first game easily before overcoming a tough challenge in the second.

Supanida won 43 out of the 77 rallies played between the two players, she established early in the first game and managed to keep an upper hand and then opened up a 17-13 lead in the second game after going neck-and-neck initially before closing out the match by winning the last two points after Sindhu had tied scores at 20-20.

But the star of the day for the home crowd was undoubtedly Saina, who moved a lot better, control the rallies and fought hard when the chips were down to advance to the second round.

Saina began on a positive note and raced to an 11-6 lead in the opening game before closing it without much ado. However, Blichfeldt stayed in control throughout the second game and it looked like the momentum had shifted towards the Dane.

However, Saina showed that she had enough and more in her reserves as she went on the offensive to counter her opponent’s attacking strokes and came up with a deceptive net shot to close the match.

“I have been working on my movement and I was confident that I could win the match today…. I could see that my movement was good today and I was determined to fight for every point,” said Saina after the match.

She will now face China’s Chen Yufei in the next round. The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist defeated Michelle Li of Canada 21-19, 21-15

In the morning session, the consecutive first-round clash between Sen and Prannoy had been the talk of the town and with both players locked 3-3 in head-to-head after last week’s Malaysia Open face-off, everyone was expecting another close encounter on home turf.

Sen’s strong defence and relatively slower playing conditions meant that Prannoy needed to come up with something special to pack off his younger opponent. But that was not to be as the defending champion showed how difficult it would be to breach his defence in the initial exchanges and opened up an 11-3 lead and never looked back in that game.

Prannoy managed to keep pace with Sen at the start of the second game but the youngster opened up a two-point lead at the break and then kept things flat and fast to close out the match in 45 minutes.

He will now take on Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, who got the better of former world no. 1 Kento Momota of Japan 21-15, 21-11 in the first match of the day.

“I am happy that I could begin from where I left off last year. In Malaysia, I could not control the shuttle in the match against Prannoy but today the conditions were quite good and could control the shuttle quite well. Tomorrow, is a rest day and I hope to continue playing like this after that,” Sen said after the match.

Among the other Indians in the fray, the women’s doubles combination of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly had to hold their nerves to get the better of the French combination of Margot Lambert and Anne Tran 22-20, 17-21, 21-18. They will now Chinese the sixth-seeded combination of Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu, who defeated Ashna Roy and Haritha MH 21-4, 21-2.

Earlier, Marin came up triumph in the clash of two former world champions beating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-13, 21-18 in 39 minutes.

Both Marin and Okuhara struggled in 2022 due to injuries and still finding their feet on the world circuit. The Spaniard was first to get off the blocks after the initial exchanges closed out the opening game rather easily.

Okuhara then began mixing things up by pushing her opponent to the backhand court and won a few points when Marin tried to judge the shuttle instead of going for the overhead. This ploy helped the Japanese to open up a 12-8 lead before the Spaniard raised the tempo of the rallies.

Marin first weaved together a series of five straight to take the lead and then closed out the match with another set of five straight points. She will now meet sixth seed Ratchanok, who defeated Malaysia’s Goh Jin Wei 21-13, 21-11 in her first-round clash.

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