World champion PV Sindhu suffered a shock defeat on her return to international badminton, losing in three games to Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in the opening round of Thailand Open Super 1000 event on Tuesday.
Sindhu, seeded sixth, returned to action months after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the international calendar, losing 21-16, 24-26 13-21 to world no 18 Blichfeldt in a 74-minute battle.
The loss ended India’s campaign in women’s singles as the other contender Saina Nehwal was forced out after testing positive for Covid-19 on the eve of the tournament. Her husband Parupalli Kashyap also had to give a walkover.
In men’s singles, world No 13 B Sai Praneeth suffered a straight game loss to Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen on his return to competition.
Frontrunner to represent India at the Olympics, Praneeth went down 16-21, 10-21 to the world No 15 Wangcharoen for only his second loss to the Thailand player.
Earlier in the day, the Indian mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa claimed a 21-11, 27-29, 21-16 win over the Indonesian pair of Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Widjaja.
However, in women’s doubles pair of Ashwini and N Sikki Reddy couldn’t cross the opening hurdle, going down 16-21, 7-21 to fourth seeded Korean pair of Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong.
No coaches, managers or other personnel are allowed to attend the matches of the Indian players after Saina and HS Prannoy tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Sindhu made a good start, opening up a 6-3 lead and never allowing her opponent to grab the advantage to take the opening game.
In the second game, the Indian once again moved ahead to an 11-8 advantage but the Dane came back strongly and turned the tables at 15-14. After a neck-to-neck battle, it was Blichfeldt, who showed better nerves to make a roaring comeback.
In the decider, Blichfeldt carried on the momentum of the second game and opened up a sizable 11-6 lead at the break. She kept exerting pressure on the Indian, moving to a 14-8 advantage.
Sindhu eventually handed a seven match-point advantage to Blichfeldt after finding the net and then hit wide as the Danish shuttler celebrated.
With PTI Inputs