India’s front-runners at the Indonesia Masters badminton championships, Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, all made their way safely into the second round of the World Tour Super 500 competition, but every one of their compatriots, barring the men’s doubles pair of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy, fell by the wayside at the Istora Senayan in central Jakarta on Wednesday.
Srikanth was in rampaging form against Malaysia’s Chong Wei Feng, and stayed on court for a minute short of the half-hour mark while bludgeoning his 31 year old rival into submission at 21-12, 21-8. There was precious little that the Malaysian could do in the face of the eighth seed’s relentless onslaught that ended up taking Srikanth’s career head-to-head tally against Chong to 3-1, and extracted sweet revenge for an unexpected reverse at the Malaysian’s hands at the Macau Open in November 2016.
The 25-year-old Guntur native qualified for a second round meeting on the morrow with Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto, who was stretched to the limit by Ng Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong, before scampering through for a 19-21, 22-20, 21-17 triumph, actually saving a match-point at 19-20 in the second game. Nishimoto had beaten his fellow-countryman and reigning world champion, Kento Momota, in the opening round of the Malaysia Masters last week.
Sindhu, seeded No 2 at this $350,000 prize money event, was put on her mettle by China’s 27 year old Li Xuerui, gold medallist at the 2012 London Olympics; and could only scramble through at 22-24, 21-8, 21-17, for a second round meeting on Thursday with local girl, Gregoria Mariska Tunjung. The talented Indonesian teenager had to pull out all stops while settling the pretensions of Japan’s Aya Ohori at 18-21, 21-18, 21-18.
Sindhu, it must be said, spurned a gilt-edged opportunity of taking the first game from Xuerui when she led 21-20 after making up a large initial 4-10 deficit. She rose to her full stature in the second stanza, and won it at a canter from a distinctly leg-weary Xuerui, who was returning from a career-threatening knee injury sustained at the Rio Olympics, and preferred to save her energies for the decider.
However, the Hyderabadi’s performance in the decider was distinctly jittery, as she had to make up a 10-13 deficit against the Chinese star, who. It was only after 17-all that the Indian raised a gallop against the fast-tiring Xuerui. Sindhu should have few difficulties on the morrow against the 19-year-old Tunjung, whom she leads 4-0 in career meetings.
Sindhu’s senior, Saina Nehwal, seeded eighth, had an eminently forgettable start to her match against local favourite, Dinar Dyah Ayustine, when she just did not seem to do anything right, and threw in the towel by a shocking 7-21 margin. She also trailed 8-12 in the second game, as the boisterous crowd urged on their player for all they were worth.
However, the Haryana-born shuttle queen showed her mettle by reeling off seven points in a row, and never looked back. She was in full control of the decider, and did not trail even once as she ran out a 7-21, 21-16, 21-11 winner.
In Thursday’s second round, Saina will cross swords with another local player, Fitriani Fitriani, who was not unduly stretched while beating Denmark’s Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt at 21-16, 21-14. Saina holds a 4-0 winning record against the 20 year old Indonesian, who has never been able to take a single game off the Indian ace.
The only other Indian singles player to cause a major flutter, albeit in a losing cause, was Subhankar Dey, who came through two qualifying rounds on Tuesday, to face the 2017 world champion, Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, in his first round in the main draw. The fast, fit Dey matched the towering Dane in all departments of the game in their entertaining 61-minute duel, but eventually bowed out at 14-21, 21-19, 15-21.
Bhamidipati Sai Praneeth, who ran into No 4 seed, Chen Long, in his opening encounter, was left gasping by the reigning Olympic champion’s smooth court movements and aggressive play, and succumbed at 12-21, 16-21, in what was almost a replica of Chen’s 21-12, 21-12 victory over the 26-year-old Indian at the Badminton Asia Championships last year.
Parupalli Kashyap, who had gallantly stretched Anthony Sinisuka Ginting over the extra points in the second game of their encounter at the Malaysia Masters last week, found the 22-year-old Indonesian, fully a decade his junior, in no mood to extend any further courtesies to the Indian veteran. Egged on by the raucous partisan crowd, the seventh seeded Ginting pummelled Kashyap into submission at 21-12, 21-16, coincidentally the exact same score by which Chen Long beat Sai Praneeth.
National champions Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy saved the Indian doubles pairings the blushes when they notched an impressive 46-minute victory over the recently formed Danish combination of Mads Pieler Kolding and Niclas Nohr, by a 14-21, 21-19, 21-15 scoreline. In the absence of regular partner Mads Conrad Petersen, Kolding has teamed up with Nohr; and the two Danes were unable to convert a useful 18-16 lead in the second game, into a straight-games victory.
The women’s doubles team of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy were in a strangely subdued mood against Thailand’s unconsidered Rawinda Prajongjai and Jongkolphan Kititharakul; and were easily beaten by a 14-21, 14-21 scoreline in a matter of 37 depressing minutes.
India’s only representatives in the mixed doubles, Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra, had bowed out of the competition on Tuesday night itself, with a 15-21, 15-21 defeat at the hands of fourth-seeded Indonesians, Tontowi Ahmed and Lilyana Natsir. The result was no surprise, considering the credentials of the richly decorated Indonesian twosome, winners of world and Olympic gold medals in the past.
There were two massive shocks on the opening day of the championships, when the top seeds in the women’s singles and doubles, both Japanese, made inglorious exits. World No 2, Nozomi Okuhara, who had narrowly beaten PV Sindhu in the 2017 World Championship final, lost to China’s Chen Xiaoxin at 18-21, 17-21.
Equally surprising was the defeat of the top-seeded Japanese women’s doubles combination of Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota at the hands of the South Korean duo of Chang Ye Na and Jung Kyung Eun by a thumping 21-19, 21-9 margin. The Japanese pair had won the Malaysian Masters title only three days earlier; and their abject surrender to the Koreans was totally unexpected.
A third surprising result was the eclipse of Chinese Taipei’s No 3 seed, Chou Tien Chen, who had to bite the dust against Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia by a 21-13, 21-13 scoreline in just one minute past the half-hour mark. Lee, who had come through the qualifying rounds at the Malaysia Masters last week, had accounted for Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and Kenta Nishimoto before losing to Axelsen in the quarter-finals; and he showed his prowess on Wednesday against a rusty Chou.
To top off a topsy-turvy day’s play, there was the shock opening-round loss of Malaysia Masters champion, Son Wan Ho, at the hands of up-and-coming Dane, Anders Antonsen, at 17-21, 21-6, 15-21.
The fifth-seeded South Korean was outplayed in the first and third games by the aggressive, fast-moving Antonsen, who runs into a qualifier next, followed most probably by Lee Zii Jia in the quarter-finals. The 21 year old Dane thus has an outstanding chance of reaching the semi-finals of this competition, from the bottom half of the draw that houses the Chinese No 2 seed, Shi Yuqi, and Indian No 8 seed, Kidambi Srikanth.
Updated Date: Jan 23, 2019 23:47:26 IST