Thomas and Uber Cup: Indian women advance to quarters despite narrow loss to Japan
Kunshan: The Indian women's team qualified for the Uber Cup badminton tournament quarter-finals despite suffering a narrow 2-3 loss to powerhouse Japan in its third and final Group D match in china on Wednesday.
The men's team, however, continued its dismal run in the Thomas Cup and crashed out after being blanked 0-5 by Indonesia in their third match of Group B at the Kunshan Sports Center Stadium.
The Indian men's team had lost to Thailand and Hong Kong in its last two outings and will return winless from China.
In Uber Cup, ace shuttlers Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu notched up straight-game victories in the first two singles but Indian eves could not win the two doubles and third singles to go down fighting to 2014 runners-up Japan.
Olympic bronze medallist, Saina defeated World No. 5 Nozomi Okuhara 18-21 6-21 to avenge her only loss to the Japanese at the Dubai World Superseries Finals last year and give her team a 1-0 lead.
The 26-year-old from Hyderabad fought back from 3-7 15-18 down to pocket the first game and then dished out a dominating game to zoom past Okuhara in the second game to complete the victory in 38 minutes.
In the second singles, two-time World Championship bronze medallist, P V Sindhu notched up a 21-11 21-18 win over World No. 11 Akane Yamaguchi in a 36-minute clash to guide India to a 2-0 lead.
However, Jwala Gutta combined with N Sikki Reddy to take on the formidable World No. 1 pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi and went down without a fight 11-21 8-21 within half an hour in the first women's doubles.
In the third singles, Ruthvika Shivani Gadde was entrusted with the responsibility of taming World No. 12 Sayaka Sato and the Indian expectedly could not match up, going down 7-21 14-21 in 29 minutes to allow Japan draw parity.
In the decider, Ashwini Ponnappa paired up with Sindhu but their gallant fight ended with a 21-15 19-21 16-21 loss to Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito as Indian eves lost 2-3 in their final league match.
However, India still qualified for the knockout stage as they are placed second behind Japan in Group D after winning against Australia and Germany.
From the other groups, Thailand, Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Korea qualified for the quarter-finals. The final round of Group A matches will decide the other two remaining quarter-finalists.
The top two teams in each group make it to the knockout stage and there will be another draw for the quarter-finals.
The men's team had yet another forgettable day as it proved no match for Indonesia, who dominated the tie to leave India clueless.
World No. 21 Ajay Jayaram could not get across Christie Jonatan, ranked 19th, losing 14-21 12-21 in a 37-minute battle in the first singles.
Manu Attri and Akshay Dewalkar then joined hands and took the court in the first doubles but lost 18-21 17-21 to Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi in just 28 minutes.
A lot was expected from B Sai Praneeth and the Indian did give his everything but could not prevent a 21-18 11-21 15-21 loss to Ginting Anthony in a 56-minute clash as Indonesia took an unassailable 3-0 lead.
In the second doubles, Sumeeth Reddy B and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy were brushed aside by Gideon Markus Fernaldi and Hendra Setiawan 9-21 18-21 and then Sourabh Varma's fight ended with a 10-21 22-20 13-21 loss to Ihsan Maulana Mustofa as Indonesia completed a 5-0 drubbing.
Gopichand, who had guided Saina Nehwal and Sindhu to a bronze and silver respectively in the last two Olympics, believes Indian badminton players have a good opportunity to better their performance.
The world number seven Indian will next play Hong Kong's world number 34 Cheung Ngan Yi in the group stage.
The soft-spoken Indian ace was not known for her aggression till five years back and it was chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, who had transformed her into an aggressive player ahead of the Rio Games.