India’s day went from bad to worse at the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Bangkok on Sunday as the women’s team joined the men in losing their respective opening group encounters in embarrassing fashion.

After India were made to pay by France for resting HS Prannoy in the Thomas Cup, which resulted in a 1-4 defeat, the hopes were on the women’s team led by Saina Nehwal in their group match against Canada.

However, the women’s team went ahead to lose by the same margin as the men, which means that India now face the prospect of not clearing their groups in both the Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup. The men’s team will now have to beat nine-time champions China, and Australia, while the women cannot afford to lose against five-time champions Japan, along with Australia.

The world’s 16 top nations compete for the men’s Thomas Cup and women’s Uber Cup every two years with matches comprising three singles and two doubles rubbers.

Nehwal, the world No 10, lost to the 14th-ranked Michelle Li in the first singles match to get India off to the worst possible start. Nehwal, 28, held a 2-0 lead in their head-to-head meetings prior to Sunday but that did not matter as she lost in three games to the 26-year-old Canadian.

The match began with both players on the attack and was evenly poised until the interval. Li had a 12-9 lead over Nehwal before she completely disintegrated and allowed the Indian to win nine straight points and run away with the game.

Li missed her lines and committed errors at the net, even as Nehwal capitalised with some winners of her own, as she took the first game 21-15. Li’s body language in the second half of the first game took a complete hit and, as the players switched ends, it seemed like Nehwal was the clear favourite.

However, the Canadian world No 14 did not give up and kept attacking Nehwal as the second game began. It was all evenly poised until 15-15, after which Li worked Nehwal around the court and induced errors. She won six of the next seven points to force the match into a deciding game.

The first half of the decider was again a closely fought affair but as the game progressed, Li’s stock began to rise as Nehwal grew increasingly tired. At 10-11, Nehwal’s serve was faulted by the service judge and that seemed to put her off as Li won nine of the next 11 points to put the match out of the Indian’s reach.

Nehwal played many tired shots in the second half of the decider, even as her errors tally increased, before Li took the game 21-16 and match.

With Nehwal’s defeat, it seemed very unlikely that India would manage to get three wins from the remaining four matches – and that is how it unfolded. The 16-year-old Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka was thrashed by Rachel Honderich 21-11, 21-13 in 28 minutes.

J Meghana and Poorvisha S Ram then got India on to the scorecard by beating Michelle Tong and Josephine Wu 21-19, 21-15. It should have been a much more clinical win but the Indian pair allowed the Canadians to come back from 18-10 to 20-19 before they could close out the first game.

India’s hopes of a turnaround were then dashed when Brittney Tam breezed past Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli 21-11, 21-15 in just 22 minutes to hand Canada an unassailable 3-1 lead. In the final match of the tie, which was a dead rubber, Prajakta Sawant and Sanyogita Ghorpade were beaten by Honderich and Kristen Tsai 21-15, 21-16, as Canada completed a 4-1 rout.

Japan thrash Australia 5-0

Meanwhile, Japan’s women dominated Australia 5-0 to get the nation’s quest for a Thomas and Uber Cup double off to a flying start. Women’s singles world champion Nozomi Okuhara crushed Louisa Ma 21-6, 21-6 in their opening Group A encounter.

Japan are favourites for the women’s Uber Cup event and showed why when doubles pair Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi then blew away Australia’s Lee Yen Khoo and Ann-Louise Slee 21-3, 21-4 as the top seeds ran out comfortable winners.

While China’s women have dominated the Uber Cup, winning 14 times including the past three editions, Japan have emerged with a shot at taking home both trophies at this year’s edition in Thailand.

With inputs from AFP