India Open 2019: Need to reduce unforced errors, play big points well, says Ramchandran Shlok after loss in men's doubles
'Our defence was a bit off, but we would like to get better on crucial points and learn fast,' Shlok said after he and MR Arjun lost their opening round clash.
The 40th-ranked Indian pair went down 21-16, 21-18 in 33 minutes
India's inability to close out crucial points, coupled with unforced errors proved their undoing
The other Indian men's doubles pair, the 28th-ranked combine of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy cruised to the second round
New Delhi: India's men's doubles pair of MR Arjun and Ramchandran Shlok crashed out of the opening round of the India Open with a straight games loss to China's Huang Kaixiang and Wang Zekang on Tuesday. The 40th-ranked Indian pair went down 21-16, 21-18 in 33 minutes in a contest dominated by China's backcourt power.
The young Indian duo fought well and showed good attacking instincts, but the inability to close out crucial points, coupled with unforced errors proved their undoing.
"We are very disappointed with our performance. I felt the Chinese didn't outplay us on rallies, but we committed way too many unforced errors. Given the way we have been playing over the last year, it was a very good chance for us to beat the Chinese pair, but as I said, we gave away too many easy points," Shlok told Firstpost after the loss.
Chinese impressed with their deft netplay and powerful smashes from backcourt and Huang, in particular, stood out for his pin-point placement. The visitors surged to an early 7-4 lead that soon became 8-6. The Arjun-Shlok pair clawed their way back to 9-8, but the Chinses grabbed to quick points to lead 11-8 at the mid-game break.
Arjun impressed with his all-round play on the net as well as jump smashes, a combination of which narrowed the deficit to 14-12. Just then, the Chinese upped the ante once again to take a runaway 16-12 lead. From there, there was no looking back as the Huang-Wang combine made it 19-13 after winning a long rally.
Later, Shlok mused on the importance of winning the big points - "the 16s, 17s, and 18s" — to make an impression in big tournaments.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't capitalise on crucial moments and play the big points well. It is not how we play at the start, it is more important to play the 16s, 17s, and 18s well. We will go back to the drawing board and come back strong," the 24-year-old said.
"We were pretty much reacting to their game, playing at their pace, but tactically we could have done better."
The second game saw a more intense, attacking play from the Indians with Arjun combining swift returns with powerful drives and smashes. The approach, however, was always going to be a double-edged sword, and the hosts ended up giving away too many easy points thanks to leaky defence and unforced errors.
"I agree, our defence was a bit off today, but we would like to get better on crucial points and learn fast," Shlok said while backing his 21-year-old partner for relentlessly going for his strokes.
"I think Arjun took some 50-50 chances which on another day would have got in, but I have complete faith in him. Next time, I will again back him to go for his strokes," he said.
With the change of ends, the Indians realised the drift on the far side of the court and decided to lure the Chinese into lifting the shuttle. The Chinese, however, coped well, and despite the visible spike in intensity from the hosts, the home pair never once led in either game.
China opened an early 5-3 lead in the second game, and after India pulled back to 6-5, Huang brought out the heavy artillery to ensure the two-point lead was restored soon. 11-7 became 16-10 as the Chinese stepped on the gas from the backcourt.
"They are a good pair, but not an elite top-15 or something. We played them about eight months back in Germany Open and lost to them. Still, we were not under-confident going into the match. We knew we had to be at our best to beat them because Huang Kaixiang is a reputed player and has got medals at the Asian Championship. Even today, he proved to be the danger man. We were aware of the threat, but things didn't go our way," Shlok said.
India got back five points on the bounce before a service error by MR made it 17-15. Again, the Indians failed to win the crucial points and the gulf just kept widening.
"Our spirits went down a bit, but then we came back to reduce the deficit. I could see the Chinese under pressure, but again easy mistakes cost us. It is extremely frustrating. Losses like these get to you, but we will go back to the grind and come out stronger."
The Chinese took the next two points before India pulled one back to make it 19-16. A crosscourt flat low smash from Shlok made it 19-17, but a deep return brought China on match point.
India saved the first match point but a smash from the centre of court ended their campaign.
"At 20-17 or 20-18, the opponent really has to play one good point, but we had no margin for error. Fighting back from 15-17, or 16-18 to match point is better than fighting back from 20. There are exceptions, but you can't leave it for too late. It's about playing the pressure points well. We hope to learn from our mistakes and come back stronger," he said.
The other Indian men's doubles pair, the 28th-ranked combine of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy cruised to the second round with a facile 21-14, 21-7 win over compatriots Lakshya Saroha and Ravi on Wednesday.
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