PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal took their respective berths in the pre-quarterfinals at the BWF Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, with rather ease while former world No 1 Kidambi Srikanth had to fight back from a game down to beat Misha Zilberman of Israel to advance to the round of 16.
Srikanth saw four match points saved before beating Zilberman in the round of 32.
While India will have five contenders for the quarter-final spots in the singles category, their doubles challenge came to an end with the two men’s doubles and women’s doubles combinations respectively biting the dust in the second round on Wednesday.
PV Sindhu started the march for the singles stars with a comfortable 21-14, 21-15 win over Pai Yu Po of Chinese Taipei in the women’s singles second round. Nehwal, then, needed just 33 minutes to pack off Soraya De Visch Eijbergen 21-10, 21-11 to advance to the next round.
It wasn’t that straight forward for Srikanth, who struggled in the opening game but managed to find a rhythm after the change of ends to win 13-21, 21-13, 21-16.
Sindhu, who has already won two bronze and two silver medals at the championships, began cautiously in her first match at the St. Jakobshalle arena and it looked like Pai was gunning for a tight fight when she won the biggest rally of the first game to level the scores at 2-2.
(Day three as it happened here.)
Pai kept pace with Sindhu till 5-5 before the Indian pulled away with four straight points and never looked back.
Sindhu was aggressive and controlled the rallies with power-packed drives and her ability to finish off points with overhead smashes on both sides of the court meant that Pai was always chasing the points.
The world No 45 from Chinese Taipei tried to slow things down with softer strokes but Sindhu was quick to attack the net, forcing her opponent to go for a lift that allowed the Indian to go for the kill.
It were the errors from Sindhu that gave Pai most of the points she earned after the Indian went into the mid-game interval with a four-point lead. The Indian won most of her points with down the line smashes and her quick reflexes on the overhead smashes gave the Taipei shuttler little time to react.
The second game started off as a much more straight forward affair as Sindhu was quick off the blocks, taking a 6-1 lead with two correct referrals.
Pai then went for broke as she attacked Sindhu’s backhand and threw herself at everything to keep the shuttle in play. The game plan provided the Chinese Taipei shuttler the best phase of the match as she fought back to take the lead at 11-10 for the first time in the game.
However, the tide changed again after the break as Sindhu won three quick points to restore her advantage. With Pai clearly running out of steam, all Sindhu had to do was to minimise her errors and stay patient to find the winners.
She did just that to wrap up the match in 43 minutes and will now face 9th seed Beiwen Zhang of USA, who defeated Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen of Australia 21-14, 21-13 in the other second round encounter. Sindhu holds a 4-3 advantage from the previous seven meetings with Zhang.
Easy for Saina
Later in the day, Nehwal seemed to have put behind her injury and health worries that kept her out of Indonesia and Japan Open as she raced past Eijbergen of Netherlands in straight games.
The 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist did not really have to stretch herself against the Dutchwoman who was struggling to control the rallies. She raced to a 17-7 lead in the first game after going into the mid-game interval at 11-5 and did not look back.
In the second game, Eijbergen tried to put up a fight but that effort did not last beyond few initial exchanges as Nehwal went into the break at 11-6 and raced through the match.
She will now face 12th seed Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in the next round.
On the adjacent court, Srikanth once again struggled in the opening game as he saw his 4-1 lead overturned by Zilberman who raced to a 21-13 win. The Indian was off the mark quickly in the second game and had 4-1 and 8-4 leads before the Israeli reduced the gap to one point.
But Srikanth was a lot more confident now as he took four straight points to increase the gap and then pocketed the game rather easily. In the decider, the seventh seed began with a 5-0 lead and then extended it to 14-4 and then closed it out at the end with a nervy finish.
He will now face Kantaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand in the next round.
Heart break in doubles
In the doubles category, two-time national champions Manu Atri and B Sumeeth Reddy, who were shouldering the Indian challenge in the absence of Thailand Open winners Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, fought hard against Han Cheng Kai and Zhou Hao Dang but lost 21-16, 21-19 in the second round.
In the women’s doubles category, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy failed to convert four game points in the opening game against Chinese 7th seeds Yue Du and Yin Hui Li and lost 22-20, 21-16. They had got a bye in the opening round against Chinese Taipei’s Ching Hui Chang and Ching Tun Yang.
The Indian challenge came to and end when Shlok Ramchandran and MR Arjun went down 21-14, 21-13 against China’s Zhang Nan and Liu Cheng.
Earlier in the day, women’s doubles pair of J Meghana and Poorvisha S Ram’s brought their doubles campaign comes to an end. The world No 41 pair lost against 2019 Thailand Open winners Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto from Japan. The Indians gave a good fight in second game but lost 8-21, 18-21. The World No 8 pair fought back from 12-16 down to clinch the match in straight games.