PV Sindhu progressed to the quarterfinals of the India Open and Malvika Bansod defeated Saina Nehwal in New Delhi on Thursday while the Super 500 tournament was hit hard by Covid-19 cases.
The former world champion, seeking a first World Tour title in more than a year, breezed past Ira Sharma 21-10, 21-10 to set up an exciting all-Indian clash in the last eight against Ashmita Chaliha.
In men’s doubles, second seeds Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty defeated Shyam Prasad and S. Sunjith 21-9, 21-18.
The 21-year-old left-hander from Assam, seen as one of the most promising talents in the country, defeated France’s Yaelle Hoyaux (world No 71) 21-17, 21-14 in the second round. Chaliha had earlier stunned the fifth seed Evgeniya Kosetskaya in the opening round. The world No 84 will face Sindhu for the first time on the international circuit.
In men’s singles, Lakshya Sen also entered quarterfinals in his first appearance at the India Open. The Worlds bronze medallist defeated Felix Burestedt of Sweden 21-12, 21-15 in 41 minutes to set up a clash with HS Prannoy.
In what was a battle of generations in Indian badminton, veteran and former world No 1 Nehwal was outplayed by 20-year-old Bansod, who has been turning heads with her performances recently. Nehwal, who admitted on Wednesday that she was only around 60-70% fit and considered pulling out of the event, was evidently lacking match sharpness. Bansod, on other hand, remained unflustered by the occasion and pulled off a good win. The match ended 21-17, 21-9 in 34 minutes.
Even though Nehwal hadn’t been at her physical best and is still recovering from a serious knee-injury in this tournament, Bansod’s task was far from easy as the experienced former champion was willing to dig in and fight for every point.
Bansod started by playing more drops to counter Nehwal’s ability to hit down the line smashes and that allowed her to open up an 11-6 lead in the opening game.
Under pressure from Bansod, she then started pushing herself to lift better from the forehand corner and pushing her opponent to the back court.
That allowed her to close the gap at 16-18 before two consecutive unforced errors on smashes allowed Bansod to pocket the opening game.
The world No. 111, who lists reading anything from a pamphlet to dictionary when free as her hobby, also read Nehwal’s game plan of pushing her to the backcourt rather well and kept on moving her opponent to all four corners and tested her overall fitness.
Many a times, Nehwal was slow to react to Bansod’s flat tosses and was never in the fight in the second game.
Bansod will take on a familiar opponent in Aakarshi Kashyap next. Aakarshi had defeated compatriot Keyura Mopatin 21-10 21-10 in another women’s singles second round match.
HS Prannoy is also through to the quarterfinals as he received a walkover as his opponent Mithun Manjunath withdrew from the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.
Sameer Verma’s campaign also came to an end in the men’s singles as he retired midway during his second-round match against Brain Yang of Canada due to calf strain.
The event was rocked by coronavirus with as many as seven Indian shuttlers, including reigning world championship silver medallist Srikanth Kidambi and top doubles player Ashwini Ponnappa, withdrawn from the event after testing positive for the virus.
The Badminton World Federation announced this in the early hours, before the Badminton Association of India later confirmed the names.
Besides Srikanth and Ponnappa, the others Ritika Thaker, Treesa Jolly, Mithun Manjunath, Simran Singhi and Khushi Gupta.
“The players returned a positive result to a mandatory RT-PCR test conducted on Tuesday. Doubles partners deemed close contact of the seven players have also been withdrawn from the tournament,” the world governing body said in a statement.
“The players will not be replaced in the main draw and their opponents will be given a walkover to the next round.”
Men’s singles world champion Loh Kean Yew defeated Joo Ven Soong 21-12, 21-12 to reach the quarterfinals, where he was also joined by Malaysia’s NG Tze Yong.
In the other women’s singles pre-quarterfinals, third seed Jia Min Yeo of Singapore got the better of 16-year-old Anupama Upadhaya 13-21, 21-17, 21-12 even though the Indian youngster impressed by taking the first game. USA’s Lauren Lam defeated Tanya Hemanth 21-18, 21-11.
Satwik-Chirag will face the unseeded duo of Hee Yong Kai Terry and Loh Kean Hean of Singapore
Schedule for quarterfinal matches available here and Court 1 will be broadcat on the Sony Sports Network in India.
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