India’s two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu progressed to the knockout stage of the BWF World Tour Finals with a straight-game win over Germany’s Yvonne Li in her second group A match in Bali, Indonesia on Thursday.
But the other developments on the day for Indian shuttlers were not great as Srikanth Kidambi and Lakshya Sen lost in their singles matches while the doubles campaigns came to an end in differing fashion.
The 26-year-old Sindhu, the only Indian to win the prestigious title so far in 2018 and finalist a year before, outplayed world No 23 Li 21-10, 21-13 in 31 minutes.
The reigning world champion will square off against top seed Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand next in her last group match that will decided who tops the group.
World number 14 Kidambi Srikanth, who had reached the knockout stage in the 2014 edition of the year-ending event, jeopardised his chances of making it to the knockout stage after going down 18-21 7-21 to three-time junior world champion Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn in his second men’s singles group B match. Srikanth is technically not out of semi-final contention but he faces a must-win situation against All England champion Lee Zii Jia while hoping Vitidsarn slips up.
Earlier, the women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy suffered their second successive loss in the event, going down fighting 19-21 20-22 to Bulgaria’s Gabriela Stoeva and Stefani Stoeva to bow out of contention. The Indian duo will face England’s Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith in their last Group B match which will be a dead rubber as both pairs have lost their two matches.
The top men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty handed a walkover to top seeded Indonesian pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo after the former complained of knee pain. The duo will not take further participation in the tournament, reported PTI.
Sindhu on song
Sindhu never trailed in the match against her German opponent who she was meeting on the tour for only the second time. Their first meeting was last week at Indonesia Open which Sindhu also won in straight games.
The Indian looked in good rhythm and played at a good pace, engaging her rival in short rallies and soon jumped to a 5-1 lead, before entering the mid-game interval with a six-point advantage. She took the initiative and kept producing some good angled returns to trouble her opponent.
Soon Sindhu moved to 10 game points with a precise down-the-line smash and then pocketed the opening game with a deceptive net shot.
After the change of sides, Li produced a better show but Sindhu ensured she had her nose ahead at the interval as she led 11-8. The drift was helping Li and forced Sindhu to play a bit more defensively, while the error count also crept up. But it was not enough to trouble Sindhu.
Sindhu ruled the roost after resumption, unleashing her smashes to gather winners. The Indian eventually grabbed seven match points when Li went wide and sealed it after her opponent again sent the shuttle long.
For Srikanth, it was his third defeat to Vitidsarn, having lost to him at the Sudirman Cup in September and Asia Team Championships last year.
In Group B, Malaysian second seed Lee Zii Jia is at the top with two points, while Srikanth and Vitidsarn shared a point each after registering one victory and one loss. While Srikanth will face Lee Zii Jia in his third match, Vitidsarn will meet France’s Toma Junior Popov.
The winner will finish in the top 2 and qualify for the knockout stage, and if both win their respective matches, it will boil down to the number of games won and lost.
The fast-rising world number 23 Vitidsarn was rewarded for his industry and immaculate defence as he didn’t allow Srikanth to mount his attack. There was never a lack of commitment from Srikanth but his younger rival was way better on the day. It was also worth noting that Srikanth played with a heavily strapped right knee but his movement seemed fine overall.
Vitidsarn had ran up a 5-2 early lead and went into the break with a healthy 11-6 advantage. A six-point burst allowed Srikanth to narrow it down to 13-15 but the Thai again marched ahead to 19-14 and quickly pocketed the opening game.
It was a one-way traffic in the second game as Srikanth just couldn’t match his rival and the rallies where he seemed to trouble his opponent ended with him committing unforced errors. Play was suspended due to poor visibility with Srikanth lagging 6-13 but it didn’t matter much as Vitidsarn closed out the match by taking the next 8 points.
On Wednesday, Lakshya Sen, the youngest Indian to qualify for the year-ending event, made it to the semi-finals after his opponent Kento Momota retired with a back injury and Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, who is also in Group A, conceding his match against compatriot Viktor Axelsen due to a knee injury.
With both Momota and Gemke pulling out, Lakshya and Axelsen have qualified from the group. The meeting between the two was the first and only completed match in the group and it saw Axelsen win 21-15, 21-14 despite the young Indian playing some scintillating badminton in flashes. The world No 1 was tested in both games and it was close till the final stages before Axelsen pulled ahead to close it out in straight games. The two players will now get a day’s rest before finding out who they take on in the semifinals.
The tournament has been marked a spate of retirements and walkovers as the BWF’s schedule has come in for criticism from the likes of Axelsen and former Danish international Mathias Boe.
Confirming the knee issue, Satwiksairaj posted on Instagram that it was not an easy decision to withdraw.
“A minor, but persistent niggle in the knee made it difficult for us to continue our participation,” Satwik wrote in his post. “Needed some rest and prep time ahead of the BWF World Championships as well. It wasn’t the easiest of decisions to pull out of the competition, but it was necessary. Thank you for all your good wishes and support, will be back on court very soon and continue to give our best as always.”
(With PTI inputs)