Glasgow, Scotland: Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu ensured the Indian challenge progressed into the last eight stage as they won their respective pre-quarters. But the wins at the Total Badminton World Championships on Thursday came in rather contrasting fashions.
Srikanth continued to cruise along for a third successive straight games win, this time over Anders Antonsen, 21-14, 21-18 while Sindhu had to virtually come from the brink to get past a strong and persistent Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong 19-21, 23-21, 21-17 in a marathon 87-minute clash to make the quarterfinals.
India’s last doubles pair, the mixed pairing of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy had a bitter-sweet exit. After winning the first game 22-20, lost the next two 21-18, 21-18 and crashed out at the hands of seventh seeded Indonesians Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto.
Ajay Jayaram was crushed 21-11, 21-10 by defending champion Chen Long, as he progressed towards a third World Championships title.
Saina Nehwal and Sai Praneeth were yet to start their matches against Sung Ji Hyun and Chou Tuen Chen respectively. There was a shock in women’s singles, where China’s new young talent, the 19-year-old Chen Yufei ousted top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, once again opening up the field.
In men’s singles Lin Dan did the Houdini act once again, beating England’s 1.90m tall Rajeev Ouseph of Indian origin in three games 14-21, 21-17, 21-16.
Srikanth’s win over the young European Championship runner-up Antonsen was on expected lines with the Indian in total command.
Srikanth smiled and said, “I am happy that I have started well and am now looking forward to the next matches. No match is easy in World Championship and even though I won in straight game, I have had to play hard in each game.”
As for meeting the top-seeded Korean Son Wan Ho, who was taken to three games by Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, Srikanth said, “You cannot go by past records. He is World No. 1 and is a very good player. So one cannot say anything about his form.” Son Wan came through 21-14, 17-21, 21-13. Though the Korean lost the second game, he was not really in much trouble in the decider.
After his own win, Son Wan Ho said, “I think it was a very tough game but i am already looking forward to tomorrows match. I believe that these competitions and matches are really important for me because this is one of the biggest tournaments of the year.”
Srikanth and Son Wan have a 4-4 head to head record, but the Indian has won last two times, in Australia and Indonesia before that. Both times Srikanth won the Super Series titles.
In Australia, Srikanth beat Son Wan in first round and Chen Long in the final, while in Indonesia, Srikanth beat Son Wan in semi-finals. So, he would have the psychological advantage, but he was not willing to be swayed by past wins.
Sindhu’s match swung from one end to the other and even the two-time world Championship and 2016 Olympic silver medal winning India admitted to nervousness. “After losing the first game, I was nervous, but the coach kept encouraging me and saying, don’t worry.”
She went on, “Cheung was going for each shot and the rallies were getting long and I was getting frustrated also I was missing a tap-in or a smash here and there.”
On what may have been the turning point of the match itself, Sindhu said, “That 21st point in the second game.” Cheung caught up at 20-al after being three points down. But Sindhu managed to close the game 23-21 after a lot of tension. “In the third again, she was not letting go and it was close, and I was telling my to try and close it,” said Sindhu. Ultimately she won 21-17 to make her way to the quarters.
On meeting Sun Yu, she said, “That is again to be a difficult match. After all it is the World Championships and she is a tall player like me and she is very good.” Sun Yu won the last time they met in Dubai, but Sindhu won the match before that and with it the title in China Open. Ouseph on his match with Lin Dan said, “I thought I had been playing well and yesterday Lin Dan was pushed hard so I knew I had a chance today if I played well.”
Lin Dan, who has five stars tattooed on his left arm to signify his five World titles, said, “It was a little tough for me to take hold of the situation in the first set as he started the match so quickly.”