Kidambi Srikanth won the first game against Wong Wink Ki Vincent 21-16 but the shuttler from Hong Kong took a 17-11 lead in the second game and seemed on course to level the match before Srikanth mounted a comeback to make it 18-18.
But Vincent was not the one to give up easily. He managed to close out the game 21-18 and force a decider and looked well on course to disappoint the partisan crowd at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi, only to face another inspiring comeback from Srikanth.
Down 1-7 and later 11-17 in the final game, Srikanth scored five straight points to make it 20-18 and then forced Vincent to hit a return wide to seal the match 21-16 18-21 21-19 on Tuesday.
While that win was clearly gave the crowd a lot to cheer about, another Indian, Subhankar Dey made the evening even more special as he defeated world number nine Tommy Sugiarto 14-21 22-20 21-11.
The importance of the win was reflected by the manner in which Dey celebrated – he lay on the court in disbelief before jumping in jubilation despite a energy-sapping match against the Indonesian.
It was as if the earlier win by Srikanth had fueled the player who was finding it difficult to match the pace of the match in the first game.
Srikanth began with a win which set the tone for the evening session for India. With a combination of fast body shots and some great retrieving, the world number seven made it difficult for Vincent, who beat him in the opening round of Asian Games last year, and eventually came out on top.
“I was trying to keep things normal and not give away easy points to him. I was not hitting the shuttle too hard,” Srikanth said after the match.
At the break in the final game, Srikanth, trailing 10-11, gave a desperate reaction towards his corner. But Vincent went on a six-point run to make things worse for the Indian.
But the experience of playing against each other frequently in the past one year gave Srikanth the confidence that he can pull it off.
“In third game I made too many unforced errors. I told myself to be patient. We have been playing so many times against each other that we know each others game and it’s never been easy,” he said.
It was not easy for other Indians shuttlers as well. HS Prannoy made a comeback after losing the first game 14-21 to Kantaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand.
But once the sides were switched, Prannoy levelled the match by winning the second game 21-18. But he had to repeat the effort once in the final game when he trailed 9-11 at the break.
“I knew the drift was from front and back. So when the sides were switched, I was confident to pull things back if I had eight or nine points at the break,” Prannoy said.
He did exactly that and won the final game 21-14 and the match to enter the round of 16.
“There was a rough patch in the game but the game changed in the second game and the second half of the third game,” he said.
It was smooth sailing for former India Open champion PV Sindhu as she entered the second with an easy 21-8 21-13 win over compatriot Mugdha Agrey, who hardly troubled the senior player and lost the match in 23 minutes.
World No. 15 Sameer Verma overcame an early resistance from the 29th ranked Rasmus Gemke of Denmark before recording a 21-18, 21-12 win. The fifth seed trailed 16-18 from where he rediscovered his rhythm and ran away with the match in 49 minutes.
Verma stressed on the change of pace that helped him win the match.
“In terms of strategy, I brought about a change of pace and changed my strokes too,” explained Sameer.
Swiss Open runner-up Sai Praneeth stormed back from a game down to edge Kartikey Gulshan Kumar 22-24, 21-13, 21-8 in 59 minutes.
However, former Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt succumbed to an 18-21, 11-21 defeat to Thailand’s World No. 36 Sitthikom Thammasin. Kartik Jindal’s brave run came to an end at the hands of the seventh seed Khosit Phetpradab 17-21, 8-21.
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