Home hopes Sai Praneeth and Parupalli Kashyap earned creditable victories over difficult first round opponents at the Yonex-Sunrise Dr Akhilesh Das Gupta India Open 2018 in New Delhi today.
Praneeth was unusually expressive during his hour-long Men’s Singles encounter against England’s Rajiv Ouseph. The match was neck-and-neck in the third game, until Praneeth gained the upper hand after 16-all and stitched together a sequence of points to emerge victorious at 21-11 17-21 21-17.
“I somehow wanted to win this,” said Praneeth, explaining his expressiveness on court. “I hadn’t done well in the later part of the previous year. This year I started well at the Premier Badminton Leauge. If I had lost a close match today the confidence would’ve gone down. I wanted to win to keep my confidence up. It was a close match all the way.
“I was playing non-stop after the World Championships last year. I didn’t get any time to train and play. After Hong Kong, I trained three weeks and played the PBL, which is why I did well.”
His compatriot Kashyap (featured image) has played only one match since last year’s Hong Kong Open in November, but was able to stop Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in straight games, 21-14 21-18. Kashyap faces Indian qualifier Shreyansh Jaiswal.
Another notable Indian victory was that of Sameer Verma, who ousted seventh seed Anders Antonsen (Denmark) 22-20 21-8.
In the same half, another qualifier, Liew Daren (Malaysia), survived a dire situation against Israel’s Mischa Zilberman and eked out a 21-18 16-21 23-21 victory.
Zilberman had one foot in the second round with a 19-14 lead in the decider, but Liew hung on and played steadily, while an increasingly desperate Zilberman tried to force the pace and played into his opponent’s hands. A couple of marathon rallies unfolded at the end, and Zilberman eventually faltered on Liew’s third match point.
“I didn’t expect him to give me such a tough fight,” Liew said. “I was leading in the second and I lost focus. There were some long rallies at the end. I managed to chase and I was a bit lucky. I’m happy to enter the second round but it’s been very tiring because I’ve been playing tournaments the last few weeks. I hope I can last tomorrow.”
Another Malaysian qualifier, Iskandar Zulkarnain, made his way past Denmark’s Emil Holst (21-15 21-17) and takes on second seed Kidambi Srikanth of India.
Men’s Doubles saw the return of Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan as a pair. The two, who had split in October 2016, have returned to join forces and prepare for Indonesia’s Thomas Cup campaign.
The Indonesians had a good warm-up in their first round against India’s Krishna Prasad Garaga and Dhruv Kapila, struggling early on but then finding their rhythm to post a 25-23 21-9 victory.
“We missed each other!” joked Ahsan. “It is about hard work and to be committed again. We must be sure of each other. We do not want to think about the competition with the young pairs that are good right now; what is important is our own form, and how we exercise, how we prepare.”
The Indonesians run into third seeds Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han (Chinese Taipei), while their compatriots, top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, eased past Denmark’s Niclas Nohr/Kasper Antonsen to set up a clash against Thailand’s Tinn Isriyanet/Kittisak Namdash.
For the hosts, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy overcame Hong Kong’s Chang Tak Ching/Hee Chun Mak; next up for them are China’s Chai Biao/Wang Zekang.
There were no surprises in Women’s Singles with all the seeds progression to round 2. USA’s Beiwen Zhang was kept longer on court than she might have anticipated, by Vaishnavi Reddy, who eventually went down 21-19 20-22 21-12.
Second seed Carolina Marin (Spain) had it easy against Thailand’s Mattana Hemrachatanun and faces a tricky second round prospect in China’s Gao Fangjie.
Eighth seed Beatriz Corrales (Spain) was stretched by Indian youngster Riya Mukherjee, but was a comfortable winner at the end: 20-22 21-18 21-12.
In Mixed Doubles, seventh seeds Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (Malaysia) were shown the door by Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti, 12-21 21-15 21-15.
Chang/Goh’s compatriots Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing and fourth seeds Goh Soon Huat/Shevon Jemie Lai, however, progressed without ado. Goh/Lai were 21-14 21-16 victors over Denmark’s Anders Skaarup Rasmussen/Line Kjaersfeldt.
China’s He Jiting/Du Yue, seeded sixth, survived a long battle against Denmark’s Niclas Nohr/Sara Thygesen 16-21 21-17 21-16.