PV Sindhu began the day for India at the Singapore Open Super 500 with a regulation 21-15, 21-11 win over Belgium’s Lianne Tan. The highlights for the Indians thereon on Wednesday though was the upset wins Mithun Manjunath and Ashmita Chaliha managed in their respective opening round matches.
Also winning on the day were Saina Nehwal and in-form HS Prannoy, easing into the round of 16 with straight-game wins.
Mithun, the World No 77 beat former World No 1 Kidambi Srikanth 21-17, 14-21, 21-19 in 60 minutes. A short while later, World No 66 Chaliha came up with a comprehensive 21-16, 21-11 win over seventh seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan, world No 12.
This was the first career top 15 win for both Manjunath and Chaliha.
The 24-year-old Manjunath, who was playing his compatriot, currently ranked 11th in the world for the first time, led from the start in the opening game. Though Srikanth did manage to level the scores at 6-6, the younger player retook the lead and held onto it to claim the first game.
It was the other way around in the second game as Srikanth started to use his experience to dominate rallies – even playing a behind-the-back shot towards the end to level proceedings.
The third game was much tighter. Both players were level on the score at 10 different stages of the game, the latest coming at 18-18. But it was Manjunath, a runner-up at the Orleans Masters Super 100 in April, who made a final push and won the last three points of the match to seal a famous win.
“He’s my favourite Indian player,” Manjunath told BWF. “Beating him is a big moment, that too at an event of this magnitude. I played a fantastic match in very tricky conditions against the best player in India.”
Later on Court 2 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Chaliha squared up against the World No 12 Thai for the first time.
The seventh seed started the game well, going up 10-5 and looked poised to take a lead at the interval. But Chaliha, the tricky left-hander from Assam, started to wrestle her way back into the contest. She won the next eight points to go up 13-10. She held onto that lead, as Ongbamrungphan tried to get back into the game, eventually winning it 21-16.
Chaliha took an early lead in the second game, leading 7-6. But there she won nine points on-the-trot to take the contest away from her higher-ranked Thai opponent, eventually wrapping up the second game 21-11.
Prannoy also got into the winners circle on Wednesday, coming up with a 21-13, 21-16 win over Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin. The 29-year-old has been one of the form shuttlers on tour, and is back in the top 20 in world rankings.
Saina Nehwal also came up with a solid performance against compatriot Malvika Bansod. The former world No 1 got one back against Bansod after losing against the youngster at the India Open earlier this year. Nehwal had to fight back from deficits in the opening game but eventually won 21-18, 21-14 in 34 minutes. A run of five straight points to win the opening game, starting with a 30+ plus shot rally, proved to be a turning point of sorts.
Parupalli Kashyap had a tough ask against fifth seed Jonatan Christie. With Prannoy in the coaching chair, the 2014 CWG gold medallist gave it a good in the second game, pushing Christie for large parts of the game but the Indonesian won 21-14, 21-15 in 37 minutes.
Later HV Nithin and Poorvisha S Ram defeat Svetlana Zilberman and Misha Zilberman, the mother-son mixed doubles pair from Israel, 21-15, 21-14 in 24 minutes.
Chaliha’s next test will be against world No 19 Han Yue of China. If she can pull off another upset, a potential all-Indian quarterfinal against Sindhu awaits. For her part, Sindhu next faces Thuy Linh Nguyen of Vietnam next.
Saina Nehwal’s round of 16 opponent is 5th seed He Bing Jiao, who has been in great form on the BWF World Tour. Nehwal has won their only previous meeting, back in 2019. Manjunath will next face Nhat Nguyen of Ireland, world No 42, in the next round.
Prannoy will next face third seed (effective top seed) Chou Tien Chen in the round of 16. Prannoy trails 2-4 on the H2H but had defeated Chou in straight games recently at the Malaysia Open, winning 12 straight points in the second game to close the match out 21-15, 21-7.
On day one, Dhruv Kapila-MR Arjun won their opening round doubles match to enter the second round where they will face Goh/Izzuddin on Thursday. In women’s doubles, Pooja Dandu and Arathi Sara Sunil received a walkover in the opening round.
In the last match of the first day, Sameer Verma went down 10-21, 13-21 to Ll Shi Feng of China. This was the first time the World No 29 had played the Feng, ranked 37.
Feng had raced to a 13-4 lead in the first game and closed out the game without much fuss. Verma came back better in the opening exchanges of the second game, hanging on till 5-5. Thereon, the Chinese player started to run away with the match, eventually closing out the tie in 42 minutes.
Here’s a look at India’s matches for Thursday: