India’s Lakshya Sen put in a much-improved performance as he defeated compatriot HS Prannoy in straight games in the first round of the India Open Super 750 badminton tournament in New Delhi on Tuesday.

An inspired Saina Nehwal found a way to get the better of Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in an hour and three minutes while defending champions Lakshya Sen and men’s doubles combination of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty began their title defence with comfortable victories on the opening day of the competition at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall.

The big disappointment for the vociferous Indian fans, who had been cheering the players through the day, was former champion PV Sindhu’s straight games loss against Thailand’s Supanida Kathethong.

Read more about Sindhu’s defeat here.

Nehwal, who has been on a comeback ever since injuring her knee at the end of 2021, defeated Blichfeldt 21-17, 12-21, 21-19 to end the day on a winning note for the Indian contingent.

Satwik and Chirag beat Scotland’s Christopher and Matthew Grimley 21-13, 21-15 to advance to the next round. However, it was not to be PV Sindhu’s day as she went down 14-21, 20-22 against Katethong.

There were no other surprises on the opening day of the HSBC BWF World Tour Super 750 event with former women’s champion Ratchnok Intanon of Thailand, Spaniard Carolina Marin and China’s men’s singles star Shi Yu Qi advancing in contrasting fashion.

But the star of the day for the home crowd was undoubtedly Saina, who moved a lot better, control the rallies and fought hard when the chips were down to advance to the second round.

Saina began on a positive note and raced to 11-6 lead in the opening game before closing it without much ado. However, Blichfeldt stayed in control through-out the second game and it looked like the momentum had shifted towards the Dane.

However, Saina showed that she had enough and more in her reserves as she went on the offensive to counter her opponents attacking strokes and came up with a deceptive net shot to close the match.

“I have been working on my movement and I was confident that I could win the match today…. I could see that my movement was good today and I was determined to fight for every point,” said Saina after the match.

She will now face China’s Chen Yufei in the next round. The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist defeated Michelle Li of Canada 21-19, 21-15

Lakshya, the men’s singles defending champion at the tournament, had lost to Prannoy, the top-ranked Indian men’s singles player at the moment, at the Malaysia Open Super 1000 last week.

But on Tuesday, the 21-year-old Lakshya was in command and earned a 21-14, 21-15 victory in 45 minutes to improve his head-to-head record to 4-3 against his compatriot and move into the round of 16.

Sen’s strong defence and relatively slower playing conditions meant that Prannoy needed to come up with something special to pack off his younger opponent. But the defending champion showed how difficult it would be to breach his defence in the initial exchanges and opened up a 11-3 lead and never looked back in that game.

Prannoy managed to keep pace with Sen at the start of the second game but the youngster opened up a two-point lead at the break and then kept things flat and fast to close out the match in 45 minutes.

He will now take on Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, who got the better of former World No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan 21-15, 21-11 in the first match of the day.

“I am happy that I could begin from where I left last year. In Malaysia, I could not control the shuttle in the match against Prannoy but today the conditions were quite good and could control the shuttle quite well. Tomorrow, is a rest day and I hope to continue playing like this after that,” Sen said after the match.

Among the other Indians in the fray, women’s doubles combination of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly had to held their nerves to get the better of the French combination of Margot Lambert and Anne Tran 22-20, 17-21, 21-18. They will now Chinese sixth seeded combination of Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu, who defeated Ashna Roy and Haritha MH 21-4, 21-2.

Earlier, Marin came up triumph in the clash of two former world champions beating Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-13, 21-18 in 39 minutes.

Both Marin and Okuhara had struggled in 2022 due to injuries and still finding their feet on the world circuit. The Spaniard was first to get off the blocks after the initial exchanges closed out the opening game rather easily.

Okuhara then began mixing things up by pushing her opponent to the backhand court and won a few points when Marin tried to judge the shuttle instead of going for the overhead. This ploy helped the Japanese to open up 12-8 lead before the Spaniard raised the tempo of the rallies.

Marin first weaved together a series of five straight to take the lead and then closed out the match with another set of five straight points. She will now meet sixth seed Ratchanok, who defeated Malaysia’s Goh Jin Wei 21-13, 21-11 in her first round clash.

In women’s doubles, India Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand delivered a gritty performance to qualify for the round of 16. The two 19-year-olds, who won the bronze medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022, showed great composure in the decider to win 22-20, 17-21, 21-18 against France’s Anne Tran and Margot Lambert.

However, elsewhere in women’s doubles, India’s N Sikki Reddy and Shruti Mishra lost 17-21, 19-21 against Germany’s Linda Efler and Isabel Lohau. While Ashna Roy and Haritha Manazhiyil suffered a crushing 4-21, 2-21 defeat against Chinese sixth seeds Zheng Yu and Zhang Shuxian.

Key results:

Men’s singles: Rasmus Gemke (Den) bt Kento Momota (Jpn) 21-15, 21-11; 7-Laksha Sen (Ind) bt HS Prannoy (Ind) 21-14, 21-15; Shi Yu Qi (Chn) bt Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo (Ina) 20-22, 21-16, 21-15; 4-Jonatan Christie (Ina) bt Brian Yang (Can) 21-14, 21-9; 5-Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) bt Lee Cheuk Yiu (Hkg) 22-20, 14-21, 21-11

Women’s singles: Carolina Marin (Esp) bt Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) 21-13, 21-18; 6-Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) bt Goh Jin Wei (Mas) 21-13, 21-11; Supanida Katethong (Tha) bt 5-PV Sindhu (Ind) 21-14, 22-20

Men’s Doubles: 5-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty (Ind) bt Christopher Grimley/Matthew Grimley (Sco) 21-13, 21-15; Krishna Prasad G/Vishuvardhan Goud (Ind) bt Ruben Jille/Ties van der Lecq (Ned) 21-11, 23-25, 21-9; 3-Chen Yufei (Chn) bt Michelle Li (Can) 21-19, 22-20; Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt Mia Blichfeldt (Den) 21-17, 12-21, 21-19.

Women’s doubles: Gayatri Gopichand/Treesa Jolly (Ind) bt Margot Lambert/Anne Tran (Fra) 22-20, 17-21, 21-18; Linda Efler/Isabel Lohau (Ger) bt Shruti Mishra/Sikki Reddy (Ind) 21-17, 21-19; 6-Zhang Shu Xian/Zheng Yu (Chn) bt Ashna Roy/Haritha MH 21-4, 21-2.

Mixed Doubles: Robin Tabeling/Selena Piek (Ned) bt Ishaan Bhatnagar/Tanisha Castro (Ind) 21-11, 21-12