Defending champion PV Sindhu breezed past Slovakia’s Martina Repiska 21-7 21-9 to make a solid start at the BWF World Championships in Huelva, Spain on Tuesday while Lakshya Sen, Srikanth Kidambi and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty pulled off thrilling wins.
The fast-rising Lakshya Sen prevailed over 15th seeded Japanese Kenta Nishimoto 22-20 15-21 21-18 and progressed to the third round. It was a huge win for Sen in a draw that has opened up due to withdrawals and early upsets, paving the way for a potential deep run.
In men’s doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty beat Chinese Taipei’s Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan, ranked world No 31, 27-25 21-17 in 43 minutes. It was a high-quality doubles match that flowed one way then the other but the Indians did enough to win in straight games.
Srikanth then rounded off a good phase for the Indians in Huelva with a superb come-from-behind win against highly-rated Li Shi Feng of China 15-21, 21-18, 21-17 in 69 minutes. The former world No 1 will take on the winner of the match between fourth seed Chou Tien Chen and China’s Lu Guang Zu, who stunned Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the first round.
World number seven Sindhu took just 24 minutes to beat the unseeded at opponent court number 3 of Palacio de los Deportes Carolina Marín Stadium here.
Seeded sixth in the tournament which she won in 2019 – when it was last held – the two-time Olympic-medallist began on a rousing note and raced to a 4-1 lead.
Repiska tried to make a comeback with two points, but the fancied Indian did not let her go ahead, leading 11-4 at the mid-break.
She continued her dominance and kept accumulating points to widen the lead, eventually pocketing the first game in only 10 minutes. The script remained the same in the second game as well, with Sindhu maintaining her firm grip over the proceedings to race to a 6-0 lead in just two minutes.
At midpoint, Sindhu was leading 11-1 and she completed the formality with a dominant performance.
The Indian will face in-form Pornpawee Chochuwong next up. The Thai shuttler won in straight games against Belgium’s Lianne Tan. Sindhu has an overall head-to-head of 4-3 against Chochuwong but the world No 9 has been in splendid form in 2021 and has won the last two matches against the Indian.
Thrilling win for Indian men
Sen was made to toil hard for his victory by the Japanese as he took one hour and 22 minutes to emerge winner. He will face Guatemala’s Olympic hero (semifinalist) Kevin Cordon next.
Satwik and Chirag too came through a tough test albeit in straight games. With Satwik having to pull out of Bali’s World Tour Finals due to a persistent knee issue, there were worries over the fitness but the 21-year-old looked in good touch as they came through a gruelling opening game 25-27.
Ong Yew Sing and Teo Ee Yi of Malaysia, the world No 12 pair (9th seeds) will now take on the eighth seeded Indians. The H2H is 2-2 between these two fantastic pairs and 1-1 in 2021, with the recent meeting in Bali going the Malaysians’ way.
However, the mixed doubles pairing of Saurabh Sharma and Anoushka Parikh suffered a straight game defeat to Malaysians Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing, going down 21-8 21-18.
Here’s what the Indian male players had to say in the BWF Mixed Zone after their wins:
Just really happy to win that match. Li played exceptionally well, credit to him. Was very consistent throughout. I wasn’t really up there in the first set, just very happy to find my rhythm and become consistent.
[On the match lasting for 69 minutes] I don’t really look at duration of a match very often (smiles). If I win, I focus on the next match. If I lose, I try and get better, work on what wrong, and be back again on court.
[About consistency] After 13-14 in the third set, it is really important to be consistent. I got to that lead after trailing for a bit (12-14 or something) and those 3-4 points made a huge difference. That was really important, just happy it worked for me today.
[About Li] He played really well, throughout the match. Definitely has a bright future.
[Conditions] Frankly, I came here one day before the tournament started, didn’t get too much to get acclimatized. Before my first match, I didn’t really get to even play in the main hall. Before I knew what was happening, I was playing my first match. That was tough (smiles). There are few things you can’t control. Just happy to win. I am just focussed on doing well, only thing I am thinking about it. Frankly, haven’t thought about the next round. Just wanted to clear this round first.
It’s another great experience for me. Playing a long match, one hour and 20 minutes. Feel good, have a day off tomorrow. Must try to recover and be ready for the next match. I think I lost a bit of focus at the end of the second game and that cost me. But I was ready to go all out in the third. It worked well in the end. I was on the good side from the beginning, so a 2-3 points advantage helped me finish the game.
Patience was very important. The shuttles are slow, so cannot put them down easily, so being patient is very important. Need to build up rallies and go for smashes.
[Facing Kevin Cordon] Yeah, just another match for me. HE had a good run at the Olympics, looking forward to playing him. Want to recover and go all out in the next match.
Feels very good. Last two weeks have been a bit dicey on the court, especially for me the body has not been comfortable. Now I feel pretty comfortable, I went for a break at home for four days. I got to refresh mentally, had some Indian food... I came back like, right, this is the World Championships. Refreshed, comfortable.
Court conditions are amazing, after playing in Bali were the courts were very slow. Here I can defend, attack, play a good all-round game. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to practice in the main hall before today and I just walked to the arena for the first time before the match. Before the match, I came in and like, oh this is a very nice place to have a good tournament. While knocking also, I was happy to see the shuttle not go long (smiles).
No pressure (for next match). Not at all! (smiles) We have been playing so many tournaments, and taking pressure means we won’t able to perform well, and get injured, frustrations or something.
Initially, in both the sets were at 11-10 either way. It was neck-and-neck all through the game. Especially in the closing stages, in the second, we kind of got our rhythm and took the game away from them. The first game was really close and it could have gone either way, I am glad we could keep our nerves and get that win.
I think the draw, we just can’t dwell on it. All we can do is give our best. We have always done well if we just take one match at a time. Trying to do the same thing now. Our main aim is to play our best.
Inputs from PTI