He talked the talk but today Sai Praneeth failed to take the first step in walking the walk to defend his Men’s Singles title in the Lion City.
Having declared he was intent on putting up stout resistance against those seeking to relieve him of the crown he had worn since last season, the title-holder was shockingly bundled out of the Singapore Badminton Open 2018 in the opening round.
The even bigger surprise was that his defeat came at the hands of a much lower-ranked player to whom the No.6 seed would not have been expected to lose.
However, it was Yu Igarashi (featured image) who celebrated at the end of their 71-minute encounter, prevailing 16-21 21-16 21-18 while Praneeth cut a dejected figure as he left the arena and was at pains to explain his demise.
“I am very disappointed. I thought I would’ve won this match but my confidence is low. I was under pressure and started losing points and the points started going the other way so it felt really bad for me,” said the former champion who had promising leads of 9-4 and 11-8 in the decider.
Meanwhile, his 23-year-old Japanese conqueror progressed to a second-round clash with China’s Qiao Bin who also wreaked havoc on the Indian camp, beating R.M.V, Gurusaidutt (21-14 21-19) at Singapore Indoor Stadium.
It was smooth sailing, however, for top seed Chou Tien Chen and No.2 Men’s Singles seed, Ng Ka Long (Hong Kong). The Chinese Taipei star was pleased with how he controlled his match en route to ousting 2016 winner Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia (21-13 21-13). Ng had a tougher test against England’s Toby Penty but won 17-21 21-14 21-14. Fate was not as kind to Ng’s team-mate and No.3 seed, Wong Wing Ki. He fell 21-14 21-16 to Malaysia’s Liew Daren.
Veteran Nguyen Tien Minh came through an odd battle with Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, dominating the first and third games while dropping the second. The Vietnamese won 21-9 14-21 21-9. Crafty Korean Lee Hyun Il also weathered the early firepower of Lee Zii Jia, before comfortably downing the Malaysian, 21-23 21-13 21-9.
In Women’s Singles, No.3 seed Beiwen Zhang (USA) lost to young Chinese Cai Yanyan –15-21 21-11 21-16 – while No.4 seed, Michelle Li, had her hands full with Indonesia’s Lyanny Alessandra Mainaky. The Canadian survived 19-21 22-20 21-17.
“She was getting all the shuttles back and I felt pressure, especially playing with the wind. I was also feeling a little tired at the start but the crowd helped me,” said Li who later saw China’s Gao Fangjie and Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol and Busanan Ongbamrungphan also advance.
Men’s Doubles top seeds, Liao Min Chun/Su Ching Heng, were jolted by a 21-19 16-21 21-17 loss to Lee Chun Hei/Or Chin Chung of Hong Kong. Two weeks after their giant-killing run to the semi-finals in Indonesia, the Chinese Taipei duo were unable to come to grips with their opponents’ attack despite fighting back to force a decider.
There was success for another Hong Kong pair, Yonny Chung/Tam Chun Hei, who beat No.4 seeds, Mark Lamsfuss/Marvin Emil Seidel, of Germany (9-21 21-17 22-20) while England’s Ben Lane/Sean Vendy ousted No.7 seeds, Arjun M.R./Ramchandran Shlok (19-21 21-17 21-19).
Women’s Doubles No.2 seeds, Della Destiara Haris and Rizki Amelia Pradipta of Indonesia were surprised by Jessica Pugh/Lauren Smith. The English duo won 21-17 21-17. The No.8 seeds, Ashwini Ponnappa/N. Sikki Reddy, were also on the losing end, being defeated by Hong Kong’s Ng Tsz Yau/Yuen Sin Ying (18-21 21-13 21-14).
The Mixed Doubles first round, which continued from yesterday, saw a comfortable win for birthday boy Tontowi Ahmad and his partner, Liliyana Natsir. The Indonesian top seeds breezed past Ou Xuanyi/Cao Tong Wei of China, 21-15 21-4.