Defending champion Lakshya Sen and former champion Saina Nehwal suffered losses in the second round of the India Open Super 750 at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday to bring an end to the Indian challenge.

Sen won the opening game of the men’s singles contest but Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke fought back by engaging the Indian in long rallies to win 16-21, 21-15, 21-18 in the World Tour Super 750 event. Later, Saina lost to Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei of China 21-9, 21-12 in the women’s singles second round clash.

In the quarter-finals, Gemke will now face top seed and compatriot Viktor Axelsen, who got the better of China’s Shi Yu Qi 21-16, 16-21, 21-9 earlier in the day.

Also advancing to the next round were fourth seed Jonatan Christie of Indonesia, third seed Loh Kean Yew of Singapore and fifth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei in men’s singles and top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, Spaniard Carolina Marin and He Bingjiao of China in women’s singles.

Lakshya rues poor start to decider

The second round clash between Sen and Gemke kept the spectators glued to their seats in the decider as Sen fought back from 8-14 deficit to make it 13-14. The two players then engaged in energy sapping rallies, one even extending to 69 shots.

It, however, ended in a heart break for the Indian as he hit a net tap long to hand victory to Gemke after an hour and 21 minutes battle.

Sen came down strongly on his own failings on the night. “Very disappointing start in the third set, especially going 1-8 down is not acceptable,” he said after the match. “I could have maybe taken some breaks in between, tried something different... didn’t have to wait to go down till 8 points and then start playing. Played well to cover up the game, but was only covering up the whole game. At the end it wasn’t just enough.”

The crowd was living most moments in the match and even Gemke had words of praise in the end. “Amazing crowd. I had to dig really deep,” he said. “The conditions were a little different from what they were two days back so I had to get used to them in the first game. Somehow managed to come back in the game. Had a good start in teh second game and then followed up from there.”

Lakshya Sen post-match reaction:

On the game:

“I could have made more bravely in the end, and yeah, silly errors... including the last point. A bit frustrating. From my end I tried my best to cover up, should’ve done better. 

“It’s a bit hard to take, because I was close. Feeling really bad about the last point. 

“From 1-8 down, just wanted to try something new. Whatever I was trying before wasn’t working. Should have played more patiently, trying to keep the shuttle in play and retrieve as much as I can. I wasn’t getting the rhythm. 

On the crowd:

“I think if it wasn’t for the crowd, then I don’t think it would have been close. A very good crowd, who were backing me throughout the game. I just love to play in these kind of situations. 

On the momentum shifts:

“The lead which he had in the third game allowed him to go all out and play flashy in a few points, that worked for him. The pressure was on me because of the lead and my rally game wasn’t patient enough because I knew I had to retrieve everything. Few shots, he got over the net by just the cord late in the third game. And even the last point. Overall, he had the opportunity to finish off the rallies.”

In the women’s singles match, Saina Nehwal was no match for the Chinese third seed, who will now face Thailand’s Supanida Katethong. There were a few decent rallies, but the Olympic champion was evidently a few levels above the Indian, who could still take positives from her two rounds here, basis her movement and fitness.

Meanwhile, Indian challenge in doubles events came to an end with defending champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty giving a walkover in their second round match due to an injury to the former while the men’s doubles combination of Vishnuvardhan Goud and Krishna Prasad and women’s doubles pairing of Tressa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand going down against their higher ranked opponents.

Treesa and Gayatri saved four match points but could not avoid a 21-9, 21-16 loss against sixth seeds Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu of China while Krishna and Vishuvardhan lost to China’s Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang 14-21, 10-21.

Key results:

Men’s singles: 4-Jonatan Christie (Ina) bt Zhao Jun Peng (Chn) 21-19, 15-21, 21-12; 5-Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) bt Wang Tzu Wei (Tpe) 18-21, 21-17, 21-10; 1-Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Shi Yu Qi (Chn) 21-16, 16-21, 21-9; 3-Loh Kean Yew (Sin) bt Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) 21-18, 21-17

Women’s singles: 1-Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) bt Yue Han (Chn) 21-14, 21-17; 4-He Bingjiao (Chn) bt Kim Ga Eun (Kor) 21-18, 21-15; Beiwen Zhang (USA) bt 7-Wang Zhi Yi (Chn) 21-17, 11-3 retd, Chen Yu Fei bt Saina Nehwal 21-9, 21-12.

Women’s doubles: 6-Zhang Shu Xian/Zheng Yu (Chn) bt Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand (Ind) 21-9, 21-16