Former champion Saina Nehwal and men’s singles contender HS Prannoy were among those who registered victories to reach the second round of India Open Super 500 at the KD Jadhav Indoor hall in Delhi on Wednesday.
Women’s singles players Malvika Bansod and Aakarshi Kashyap, and 2021 World Championships bronze medallist Lakshya Sen also made their way to the round of 16.
Lakshya began his Indian Open debut campaign in solid fashion as he defeated Adham Hatem Elgamal 21-15, 21-7. He will face Felix Bureatedt of Sweden in the next round.
Saina looked rusty and was pushed to the distance in the opening game, but advanced after Czech Republic’s Tereza Svabikova retired at the start of the second game with the Indian leading 22-20, 1-0. Bansod and Kashyap defeated their opening round opponents in straight games.
Bansod got the better of a familiar opponent in Samiya Imad Farooqui 21-18, 21-9 while Kashyap packed off Anura Prabhudesai 21-14, 21-14 in the opening round.
Nehwal and Bansod thus set up a clash of generations in the second round. With the 20-year-old left-hander impressing with her performances in recent times, and Nehwal yet to reach full fitness in her own words, this could be a close contest.
In men’s singles first round matches, Prannoy Spaniard Pablo Abian 21-14, 21-7 while Mithun Manjunath got the better of France’s Arnaud Merkle 21-16, 15-21, 21-10.
The main attraction of the second day’s play was obviously how fourth seed Nehwal would perform against Svabikova as she was returning from an injury lay-off.
Saina began well as she raced to a 7-2 lead and then consolidated her position at 16-10 before her tentative movement on the forecourt meant that Svabikova could start controlling the rallies and the world No. 142 won eight of the next nine points to take the lead for the first time in the game.
She then earned her first game point and it looked like Saina was feeling the heat. But the Indian used her experience to level scores with a deft net play and then won the next two points to pocket the game.
Just when the match was nicely warning up, Svabikova suffered a back injury and retired as she could not even stand on her feet and had to be stretchered out.
While Nehwal felt sad for Svabikova and was seen consoling her opponent at the end, she was happy to get another match to play on Thursday as she is also looking to find her rhythm after multiple issues with her right knee forced her to pull out of the World Championships last month.
“Playing after so long gives you the match confidence...how to pull out those points, because in practice you don’t have the privilege to play points with the same intensity as you do in tournaments. The quality of some of the points I got today...I hope it somehow helps me tomorrow,” said the former world No 1, who started training only recently and believes she needs more time to be fully match fit.
Bansod, who recently won the All India Senior ranking meet in Hyderabad, struggled to take control of the rallies in the opening game against Farooqui, who ran her close till the first mid-game interval. But just when it looked like the match could go down the wire, the left-handed Nagpur girl started to become more aggressive and bagged the first game. The second game was then a cakewalk.
The youngster said after the match she was excited to finally get a chance to play Nehwal.
“I am really excited to play against Saina as it will be my first encounter with her, so really hoping to play well,” said Bansod, who had been part of India’s campaign at the Sudirman Cup and Uber Cup Finals last year.
Prannoy, Sen cruise
Later in the day, Abian managed to open up a 6-2 lead against Prannoy before the Indian started raining his down the line smashes and controlled the net exchanges brilliantly to overcome the Spaniard in just 33 minutes.
He will next face Mithun, who was made to work hard by Merkle.
Mithun needed time to get used to Merkle’s style of play in the opening game but his willingness to play long rallies allowed him to get into a rhythm and take control.
However, the Frenchman wasn’t going to go down without putting up a fight and started the second game with much more attacking intent. That allowed him to race to a 10-5 lead. Mithun did claw his way back and the game went neck and neck till 12-12 before Merkle clinched six straight points to force the decider.
Mithun clearly had more gas in his tank in the decider and proved enough for him to advance to the second round after spending an hour and five minutes on the court.
Making his long awaited debut at the event, Sen also got off to a good start defeating a player ranked 101 places below him, in quick time.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty (second seeds in men’s doubles) Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy (effective top seeds in women’s doubles) also progressed to the second round after wins in all-Indian battles. Ashwini and Sikki needed three games.
Rahul Yadav Chittaboina got a walkover after Spain’s Lu s Enrique Penalver’s withdrawal.
Aakarshi Kashyap will square off against Keyura Mopati, who has been promoted from reserve. Mopati beat fellow Indian Smit Toshniwal 15-21 21-19 21-8. Rahul will be pitted against Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen, who knocked out Ajay Jayaram 19-21, 21-7 21-14 in another men’s singles contest. Tanya Hemanth got rid of Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka 9-21 21-12 21-19 in another women’s singles match.
In what could be termed an upset, seventh seeds and Orleans Masters runners-up Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala bowed out in the first round. They were up against Singapore’s Loh Kean Hean (Kean Yew’s brother) and Hee Yong Kai Terry from Singapore and lost 16-21, 16-21 in 28 minutes.
PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Sameer Verma had reached the second round on Tuesday.
Second round action takes place on Thursday. Here’s the schedule.