PV Sindhu saved eight match points and played her heart out when she was pushed to the wall but could not avoid her fourth first-round reversal in her seventh All England Championship appearance at Arena Birmingham on Wednesday.
The fifth seed played well in patches but was guilty of making too many unforced errors as she went down 21-16, 20-22, 21-18 against Sung Ji Hyun.
The 81-minute humdinger between two opponents, who had a 8-6 head-to-head record in the favour of the Indian coming into the match, saw the 23-year-old Sindhu fight back twice from the brink but had left herself too big a wall to scale in the decider after a flurry of errors gave her opponent seven match points.
She saved five of them and eight overall but Sung showed the composure to keep the shuttle in play on the next point and dominate the net exchanges to knock out the fifth seed.
Sindhu was clearly tentative for most of the match and though she opened up a 5-2 lead in the opening game, she never quite looked in control. That allowed Sung to claw her way back as she targeted the Indian’s backhand to clinch the opening game.
The second game was no different with Sindhu lacking the patience to wait for the right opportunity to find a winner. She did fight back from 9-13 down to level the scores at 13-13 but once again made several mistakes to hand Sung three match points.
It was at this point that the 23-year-old changed tactics and began keeping the shuttle in play for as long as possible and Sung ended up making the errors. The longest rally of the match, 34 strokes, allowed Sindhu to draw level at 20-20 and the BWF World Tour finals champion clinched the next two points to force a decider.
To her credit, Sung did not allow that reversal to affect her mentally and stuck to her game plan of pushing Sindhu to her backhand and won a few easy points with crosscourt drops and smashes to that side.
She first won eight straight points to race to a 15-9 lead and then held seven match points with Sindhu thanks to a flurry of errors from Sindhu.
But instead of throwing in the towel, Sindhu threw caution to the wind and began attacking a lot more and Sung ended up making uncharacteristic errors while trying to play it safe.
However, at 20-18, the Korean decided to grab the initiative and took the point and the match and set up a second-round encounter against Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong, who defeated Evgeniya Kostskaya of Russia 21-15, 21-9.
Sai Praneeth advances
Earlier, B Sai Praneeth took the honours in the all-Indian men’s singles first round clash against HS Prannoy by converting his fourth match point to win 21-19, 21-19 in 52 minutes.
Sai Praneeth and Prannoy, who had a strong rivalry during their junior days, were playing on the international circuit for the first time since 2013 and it was the latter who was quickly off the blocks.
Prannoy opened up a 8-5 lead in the opening game before Sai Praneeth clinched four straight points to take the lead. The 2017 Singapore Superseries champion, however, couldn’t really break away into a strong lead and though he did open up a small lead every now and then, his opponent always managed to claw back.
But at 19-19, Sai Praneeth earned two quick points to take the opening game. In the second, he was a lot more assured and opened up a 10-6 lead. Though Prannoy managed to pull things back by winning six of the next seven points to take a 12-11 lead, the advantage didn’t last long.
Sai Praneeth, who will now face NG Ka Long Angus in the second round, then took control and earned four match points. Prannoy managed to save three but could not force a decider.
In the women’s doubles encounter, J Meghana and Poorvisha S Ram could not build on the advantage of winning the opening game and lost 18-21, 21-12, 21-12 against Russian Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Davletova.