World No 3 PV Sindhu was stretched in her opening match of the Dubai World Superseries Finals by China’s He Bingjiao before coming through in three games on Wednesday. Sindhu won the match 21-11, 16-21, 21-18 after one hour and four minutes on court.
Sindhu’s compatriot in the men’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth, wasn’t so lucky as he lost in straight games to world champion Viktor Axelsen in his opening match. Axelsen, the defending champion in Dubai, needed only 37 minutes to beat Srikanth 21-13, 21-17.
Sindhu had a good start to the match as she controlled the play and made the most of her height advantage against the diminutive Chinese. Bingjiao was also found lacking in her court coverage and speed, as Sindhu raced to a one-game lead, winning the opener 21-11.
It was, however, a different Bingjiao who turned up in the second game as she stepped up her attack and did not allow Sindhu to control the game. In the first game, the Chinese controlled the longer rallies but erred with her finishing. She made amends to that in the second game as she took it 21-16 and forced a decider.
The rallies became longer and more competitive in the deciding game as Sindhu was forced to bring out her best defensive game forward. In the end, she managed to gain the upper hand over her lower-ranked opponent, taking the decider 21-18.
Srikanth versus Axelsen was touted to be a blockbuster but it turned out to be rather one-sided. There were shouts of “Aag laga de court pe, Srikanth!” from the Dubai crowd, which had a lot of Indians, but the only shuttler who set the court on fire was the Danish world No 1.
The first game was quite see-saw, as Axelsen started well and took a 4-1 lead before Srikanth won eight points in a row to make it 9-4. That was soon to become 10-7 in Srikanth’s favour before the Dane launched an aggressive fightback and tilted it to 18-12 for him. He won the opening game 21-13.
Both players continued to be aggressive in the second game but slower conditions worked in favour of Axelsen as he excelled in both attack and defence. The world champion was just too good for Srikanth on the day, his retrieving being especially superb. Srikanth put up a better fight in the second game but could not stop Axelsen from winning it 21-17.
The world No 1 thereby laid down a marker for the tournament with his rather facile win over the most successful men’s singles shuttler this year.