PV Sindhu fought back from the brink to register a three-game win against Chinese Taipei’s Pai Yu Po in her opening round match at the Badminton Asia Championships in Manila, Philippines on Wednesday.

Earlier, former world No 1 Saina Nehwal also registered a three-game win in her match against Korea’s Sim Yujin at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex to reach the round of 16. Joining Sindhu and Saina in the pre-quarterfinals is Srikanth Kidambi, who registered a relatively comfortable win against Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong late in the day.

It was otherwise a disappointing day for the Indian contingent as Lakshya Sen was among those to bow out in the opening round.

Involved in a tough battle against the 31-year-old former top 20 player, Sindhu was trailing 15-19 in the second game after dropping the opening game 18-21. Having not led at any point in the match till then, Sindhu reeled off five straight points to go 20-19 up. Soon after that, Pai had a match point which Sindhu saved. It was a topsy-turvy finish to the second game but Sindhu eventually converted her sixth game point to take it 27-25 and force the decider.

Buoyed by a raucous support from the stands, Sindhu then breezed through the decider 21-9 to win the match in 77 minutes. She will next face Yue Yann Jaslyn Hooi of Singapore.

“I think the conditions were very, very tricky and it was really hard to control the shuttle, it was fast from one side,” said Sindhu after her match on Wednesday. “I was a bit nervous in the second game but I fought hard and came back.”

Earlier, Saina – a multiple-time former bronze medallist at the event – reached the second round with a 21-15 17-21 21-13 win against Yujin from Korea. The London Olympics bronze medallist will next face Wang Zhi Yi of China in the next round, the Chinese shuttler defeated Busanan Ongbamrungphan in three games.

“I think after a long time I’m playing good, tough matches this year,” Saina said after her match on Wednesday. “I was very close at the All England too... somewhere I’m seeing that I’m coming back and doing well.”

Srikanth wins, Lakshya out

On a day of heartbreaks and hard-fought wins for Indian shuttlers, Srikanth brought things to a close with a relatively comfortable win 22-20, 21-15 against Ng Tze Yong. He will face 22-year-old Weng Hong Yang, the Chinese shuttler who stunned the field out of nowhere to win Korea Open Super 500 recently.

World No 9 Lakshya Sen was upset in a close second round encounter by China’s Shi Feng Li. The Indian saw his strong lead in the deciding game being overturned by Li, who came up with a 12-21, 21-10, 21-19 win in 56 minutes. It was a repeat of the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympics final, where Li had won gold and Sen had won silver.

Sen had made a good strong start to take the opening game before the World No 65 from China pushed back in the second game to level proceedings.

Neck and neck at 7-7 in the decider, Sen raced to a commanding 17-10 lead and looked set to make it through to the third round.

But Li made another comeback, winning 11 of the next 13 points to go through to the quarterfinals where he will face Chinese Taipei’s Tzu Wei Wang, ranked 15th in the world.

Later, B Sai Praneeth also exited the tournament after a fourth seed Jonatan Christie won their second round match 21-17, 21-13 in 34 minutes.

Heartbreak for Malvika Bansod

Malvika Bansod nearly pulled off an incredible comeback against world No 17 Yeo Jia Min from Singapore. The 20-year-old Indian took the opening game 21-9 but the Singaporean fought back strongly to take the second game 21-17 and force the decider. The 23-year-old looked on course to win the match at 19-11 but Bansod won a remarkable 9 straight points in a row to have a match point, and then another. Jia Min saved those two and then needed four match points herself to win the match 9-21 21-17 26-24 in 51 minutes.

In the earlier matches on Day 2 of the event, top seeded women’s singles player Akane Yamaguchi beat Aakarshi Kashyap 21-15, 21-9.

In women’s doubles, K Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam lost 21-19, 21-12 to Malaysian pair Anna Cheong and Mei Xing Teoh. Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker then lost to Malaysian seventh seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan 15-22, 11-21.

Prequarterfinalists from India at the Asian Championships (Tournament software)

Momota stunned

Two-time world champion Kento Momota suffered a shock first-round defeat at the Asia Championships on Wednesday as his indifferent form hit a new low.

Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo, ranked 52nd in the world, lost the first game but stormed back to stun the Japanese top seed 17-21, 21-17, 21-7 in just over an hour in Manila.

The 27-year-old Momota, a former world number one but now ranked second behind Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, said: “I couldn’t cope with the wind and heat at the venue today. It wasn’t about my opponent, I think my performance wasn’t good at all. I hope to find out what I did wrong and what I need to reflect on so that I can prepare for next time.”

Momota has struggled to rediscover his scintillating top form after being badly injured in a career-threatening car crash in January 2020.

Momota’s only title since came at the Indonesia Masters last November and soon after he pulled out of December’s World Championships with a back injury. Momota lost his opening match at the German Open last month and did not get past the quarter-finals at the prestigious All England Championships.

The Japanese ace said that his “spirit was almost broken” by the accident which killed his driver on the way to Kuala Lumpur airport just hours after winning the Malaysia Masters.

Momota suffered double vision and needed surgery on an orbital bone near his eye, leaving him fearing his career might be over.

He returned to the circuit at the end of 2020 and had been favourite for Olympic gold on home soil in Tokyo last year, but was eliminated early.

(With AFP inputs)