Priyanshu Rajawat produced yet another impressive performance against one of the top 15 players in the world when he defeated world No 15 Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan in the first round at Singapore Open on Tuesday.
Rajawat, who had beaten Kenta Nishimoto (then world No 12) at the Orleans Masters on his way to a title there, defeated his compatriot Tsueyama 21-12, 21-15.
Earlier, Srikanth Kidambi made it to the round of 16 at the Super 750 event, while India’s top-ranked singles shuttlers PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy saw their campaigns end in the opening round in Singapore.
Srikanth came through in straight games defeating Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-15, 21-19.
Also progressing through, in men’s doubles, are MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila who moved into the second round with a 21-16, 21-15 win over the French pair of Lucas Corvee and Ronan Labar
But there was disappointment elsewhere on a tough day for the Indian contingent.
Defending champion in Singapore, Sindhu went out in the first-round of a tournament for the second straight week, as she lost to world No 1 Akane Yamaguchi in a three-game battle, 18-21 21-19 21-17. Prannoy too didn’t have the luck of the draw in his favour as the world No 8 lost against world No 4 Kodai Naraoka in two hard-fought games 21-15 21-19 in a match that went on nearly for an hour.
And in another heartbreaking three-game defeat after taking the lead, Lakshya Sen went down fighting against world No 7 Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei 18-21 21-17 21-13.
Also bowing out were Saina Nehwal and Aakarshi Kashyap as India’s women’s singles campaign ended on day one.
Rajawat impresses again
In a close opening game, Rajawat and Tsuneyama, the 2023 Asian Championships bronze medallist, exchanged leads but the Indian pulled ahead from 14-13 to close the opening game on a run of 7 out of 9 points. The second game saw the Japanese take a 4-1 lead but Rajawat went on a run of 7 straight points and that was enough for him to stay ahead and close this out in straight games.
It was another impressive display of attacking badminton from the Indian, who is back in the world’s top 40 now at 37. He faces another tough test in the second round in the form of third seed Naraoka.
Tough luck for Sindhu, Prannoy
Sindhu’s long injury layoff and her indifferent form in 2023 so far has already seen her slip to rankings she hasn’t seen in recent years and the consequence of that has been tough first-round draws. The Indian, now world No 18, couldn’t have asked for a tougher one in Singapore as she had to take on Akane Yamaguchi, the reigning world champion.
However, Sindhu has a good record against the world No 1 and has troubled her often in the past, coming into this match with a 14-9 Head-to-Head record. That confidence showed from the start as the Indian hit through the lines well, using her attacking power to good effect. Yamaguchi, on the other hand, cut a frustrated figure as she made far more errors than normally she would. The combination of those factors meant Sindhu took the opening game.
The second game too was a close affair for the most part with Sindhu leading 11-10 at the interval after being 4-8 down. But from there on, Yamaguchi started playing with more control and once the decider was enforced, she kept Sindhu at arm’s length to close the match out.
Sindhu was reportedly tearful after the match in an interview with BWF. She was quoted as saying, “Progress wise, it’s been fine. But today was anybody’s game. Overall, I’m happy I’m back on court after the injury because sometimes… sometimes it’s really hard to lose close matches but I’m going to come back stronger. It’s important I go back and learn from my mistakes. It’s an Olympic qualification year so I just want to get back to my best and stay injury free.”
For Prannoy too, the draw didn’t help as he was pitted against world No 4 in the first round despite himself being in the top 8. The scoreline for the match doesn’t tell the whole story as both players produced many high quality exchanges in both games even though a few unforced errors cost Prannoy dearly.
Also losing out a hard-fought match was Sen. The story was similar to his defeat against Kunlavut Vitidsarn in the semifinal at the Thailand Open last week, as he took the first game with some aggressive play. But Chou emerged victorious, especially with Sen struggling to control his errors in the deciding third game, either side of the court.
In a tricky opening test, Srikanth faced a deficit in both games against world No 29 Wangcharoen, starting off the match sluggishly at 0-5. But once he got going, he was hard to stop as he played a clean game for the most part. The second game was a bit of a streaky one with both players going on a run of points but Srikanth, a former finalist here in 2017, closed it out in straight games.
The former world No 1 next faces Chia Hao Lee of Chinese Taipei, who replaced Viktor Axelsen from reserves. The world No 42 defeated Kenta Nishimoto in the opening round for an upset win.
In men’s doubles, Dhruv-Arjun will next face world No 18 Ben Lane and Sean Vendy of England.
On Wednesday, world No 4 Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy will look to bounce back from a less than ideal outing at the Thailand Open last week. The Indian duo will start their campaign against Japan’s Akira Koga and Taichi Saito, a tricky yet winnable test against the world No 24 pair. They are, however in the same quarter as the Minions (Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo) who have never lost to the Indians and former world champions Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi.
Also starting their campaign on Wednesday is the women’s doubles combination of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand when the pair face world No 28 Hong Kong’s Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam in the opening round. But a massive test awaits them next up should they win, as they will likely take on one of the in-form pairs in the world in Korea’s Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee.
Here’s a look at India’s results on Tuesday: