B Sai Praneeth and PV Sindhu stormed into the quarter-finals of the BWF Badminton World Championship in Basel, Switzerland, on Thursday in what proved to be a mixed bag of a day for Indian shuttlers.
Sai Praneeth upset sixth seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in straight games while HS Prannoy went down fighting against defending champion and top seed Kento Momota in the men’s singles pre-quarterfinals
Then, four-time world championship medallist Sindhu then decimated USA’s Beiwen Zhang 21-14, 21-6 in just 34 minutes but it was heartbreak for former world No 1 Kidambi Srikanth who lost to Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-14, 21-13 in 40 minutes.
In the last match of the day, Saina Nehwal could not convert two match points for a straight-game win before losing to world No 12 Mia Blichfeldt 21-15, 25-27, 12-21 in a 72-minute encounter.
Earlier, 16th seed Sai Praneeth was at his aggressive best as he downed Ginting 21-19, 21-13 in 42 minutes after Prannoy’s fight against Momota ended with a 21-19, 21-12 loss in 56 minutes on the same court.
It was a topsy-turvy opening game as the lead changed hands couple of times as both Ginting and Sai Praneeth played at a good clip.
Ginting was first off the block taking a 3-0 lead before Sai Praneeth targeted Ginting’s backhand with his cross court smashes to win points. This allowed him to grab the initiative from the Indonesian and went into the mid-game break with a three-point lead.
But Ginting then changed gears and began attacking more. The ploy worked for the Indonesian as he levelled the scores at 12-12 and the two players remained neck and neck till 19-19. At this point, Sai Praneeth managed to induce errors from the world No 8 at the net to take the opening game 21-19.
The 27-year-old Indian was quick off the blocks in the second game as he took a 4-0 lead before errors began to creep in and it looked like he was beginning to tire out. Ginting made the most of the opportunity by winning six straight points to grab the lead and went into the mid-game break with a three point advantage.
But Sai Praneeth was determined not to let the match extend beyond the two games and hand the momentum to his opponent. He came back after the break with an all-out attack strategy and pushed the Indonesian on the defensive.
He intercepted the shuttle early and went for the kill to Ginting’s back hand and the Indonesian wilted under pressure. Sai Praneeth won 12 of the next 13 points to earn eight match points. He needed just two to wrap up the match.
The Indian will now face Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie who defeated former world number 2 Jan O Jorgensen.
No trouble for Sindhu
Later in the day, Sindhu proved that she has clearly raised the bar since the final appearance in the Indonesia Open Super 1000 event where she won silver after losing to Akane Yamaguchi.
The fifth seed took sometime to get off the block as Zhang took a 2-5 lead in the opening game. But it was a completely one-sided affair thereafter as the Indian grabbed the lead by winning five straight points and then extended it to 14-7, dropping just two points while winning 12 in the bargain.
Zhang did try to put up a fight thereafter but it was too little too late.
Sindhu simply hit top gear after change of ends as she raced to a 8-1 lead and then stitched together a series of six straight points to increase the lead to 14-3.
It was cakewalk thereafter as the Indian set up a quarter-final clash against world No 2 Tai Tzu Ying, who survived a scare in round of 16. The Chinese Taipei shuttler had to save four game points in the first game and then saved two in the second after squandering a 19-16 lead but emerged victorious in the 56-minute battle against Kim Ga Eun 24-22, 24-22.
Good effort from Prannoy
The opening game between Momota and Prannoy was well contested as the world No 30 Indian tried to use his physical strength to push the Japanese out of his comfort zone.
While Prannoy did manage to win a few points with this game plan, Momota soon hit the strides as he pushed the Indian to play more strokes to win the points and induced mistakes. This meant that the world No 1 went into the mid game break with a four point advantage.
But after the break, Prannoy tried to grab the initiative by blending his attacking strokes with a game plan of keeping Momota away from the net. That allowed him to win five of the next six points and level the scores at 12-12.
The Indian then ensured that he was always on the tail of Momota, winning points with his booming down the line smashes and it looked like he could draw first blood when he won two quick points to level the scores at 19-19.
But that is when Momota changed the tempo of his play once again and won the game by killing a simple net lift from Prannoy which barely crossed the service line.
The second game followed a similar pattern at the start with Prannoy winning points with his smashes and kept pace with the Japanese till 4-6. And at that instance, Momota started to tighten his stranglehold on the match bagging nine of the next 11 points to open up a 15-6 lead and then wrapped it up in 56 minutes.
Srikanth would be, however, disappointed with his effort as his campaign was cut short in the round of 16.
In the final match of the day on court No 4, where Srikanth lost earlier, Nehwal could not make the most of her early advantage as he went down in three games to up and coming Danish shuttler Blichfeldt. The Indian had little trouble winning the opening game 21-15 but the second game was a marathon affair, with both players letting go of leads multiple times. Nehwal saved five game points while squandering two match points, and Blichfeldt finally emerged with that game 27-25.
That seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the former silver medallist as the Dane did not have too many troubles winning the decider once she took the lead after trailing 3-6.
With this defeat, Nehwal’s run of quarterfinal appearances at the Worlds came to an end.