An inspired Nozomi Okuhara got the better of PV Sindhu in the second round of the Japan Open Superseries with a thumping 21-18, 21-8 win on Thursday in a contest that lasted for 47 minutes. The match took place only four days after their encounter in the final of the Korea Open, which was won by Sindhu in three games. This was only the second time in nine meetings between the two players that the match didn’t enter a decider.
It was the Indian who was in command after the early exchanges of the first game, and had a slender 11-9 lead at the interval. The Japanese hit her stride from this point, picking up six straight points with consummate ease to surge to a 15-11 lead.
There was a brief resurgence from Sindhu during the closing stages of the first game with Okuhara committing a series of unforced errors. The world champion, though, found her groove at the net to pocket the first game. The Olympic silver-medallist was brutally punished in the second game by Okuhara.
Sindhu’s touch deserted her has she struggled to cut down on her unforced errors. Okuhara, on her part, was flawless, deceiving her opponent almost every time she attempted a cross-court drop. Motoring along with consummate ease, Okuhara amassed eight points in a row to lead her head-to-head record with Sindhu by a 5-4 margin.
Saina fails to seize advantage, punished by Marin
Saina Nehwal was defeated by a resilient Carolina Marin in what was a rematch of the 2015 World Championships final. Nehwal took the lead in both games but the contest was one-way traffic once the Spaniard found a foothold in the contest. Marin cantered to a 21-16, 21-13 win in a contest that lasted for 43 minutes.
The opening exchanges of both games bore a stark similarity with advantage oscillating back and forth between the two players. A five-point burst from Nehwal in the first game propelled her to a 14-10 lead. The left-hander, though, frustrated the Indian with her defence, and comfortably cleared the deficit to chip away to a win in the first game.
Nehwal had a slender lead in the second with the score at 8-6. However, the wheels began to come off for former world No 1, who struggled to cope with Marin’s cross-court smashes. The 24-year-old reeled off six straight points to motor away to the next round, where she will face the second seed, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi.
Srikanth thumps Hun Yun, Pranaav-Sikki enter last eight
World No 8 Kidambi Srikanth demolished Hong Kong’s Hu Yun 21-12, 21-11 inside 30 minutes to storm into the quarter-finals. The Indian, though, has his task cut out in the next round, where he faces world champion Viktor Axelsen. Srikanth has lost his last two encounters against the Dane in straight games.
US Open Champion HS Prannoy got the better of Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao 21-16, 23-21. He will now play against second seeded Chinese Shi Yuqi, who staved off a spirited challenge from India’s Sameer Verma in the second round. Shi won 10-21, 21-17, 21-15 in the early hours of the day’s play.
The mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy played out a nail-biting encounter Indonesian fourth seeds Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto, only go down fighting. The Indians lost their way in the final game after taking the contest to a decider. Ponnappa and Satwik lost 27-29, 21-16, 12-21 in a match that lasted 66 minutes.
India’s other mixed doubles pair in the competition – Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy – had little trouble brushing aside Japan’s Yuki Kaneko and Koharu Yonemoto 21-13, 21-17.