Saina Nehwal squandered a great opportunity to beat world No 2 Akane Yamaguchi after going a game up in the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Wednesday but lost in three games.

Nehwal, ranked ninth in the world, won the first game 21-10 to take the initiative in the match. However, Yamaguchi responded strongly in the second game, winning 11 of the first 12 points, before beating the Indian by a similar margin to force a decider.

The third game was a tight affair right to the end. The scores were tied 18-18 before a couple of errors from Nehwal handed the match to the Japanese.

Nehwal wasn’t the only Indian who took the lead against higher-ranked opponents before going on to lose. The women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy, ranked 26th in the world, put up an impressive performance against second seeds Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi but lost 21-18, 10-21, 8-21.

Earlier in the day, world championship silver medallist PV Sindhu was taken to three games by Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol. Sindhu, the world No 3, shook off some opening-match nerves to win 21-15, 13-21, 21-17.

Sindhu looked set to make quick work of her opening match, breaking away from Nitchaon in the first game. But she began to falter soon afterwards as Nitchaon’s powerful smashes battered her into submission in the second game.

However, a pep talk in the last interval saw Sindhu claw back the decider, after the Thai fired long on several crucial points. Sindhu, who won three major silver medals this season – Commonwealth Games, World Championship and Asian Games – will take on Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun next.

Kidambi Srikanth and Sameer Verma recorded straight-game wins in their respective openers against Wong Wing Ki Vincent and Suppanyu Avihingsanon, but P Kashyap and Sai Praneeth went down to China Open champion Anthony Ginting and Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab. While Kashyap lost in straight games, Sai Praneeth won the first game before losing 21-16, 11-21, 15-21.

Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy also reached the second round after beating Thailand’s Bodin Isara and Maneepong Jongjit 21-12, 21-18.

With inputs from AFP