PV Sindhu was among the Indian players to book their places in the quarter-finals of Swiss Open Super 300 badminton tournament in Basel on Thursday as she eased past her opponent in straight games while Satwiksairaj Rankireddy progressed to the last eight in both men’s and mixed doubles.
This is the first BWF tournament in the second phase of the extended Olympic Games qualification period.
Former world No 1 Kidambi Srikanth, seeded fourth at the event, needed three games but ultimately made short work of his opponent. The mixed doubles pair of Satwik and Ashwini Ponnappa continued to impress while second seeds Satwik and Chirag Shetty were made to work in men’s doubles.
Fifth seed Sai Praneeth made short work of Spain’s Pablo Abian to win 21-12, 21-17 and set up a quarter-final against rising Malaysian star Lee Zii Jia, seeded second at the tournament.
While the seeded Indian singles stars registered contrasting but ultimately comfortable wins, the biggest result of the day was Ajay’s win over third seed Rasmus Gemke from Denmark.
After beating Sitthikom Thammasin on Wednesday, Ajay pulled off another upset to go past world No 12 Gemke. The Danish player is one of the most improved shuttlers on the circuit but Ajay showed the flashes of brilliance that he is capable of at his best, especially in the decider. The Indian had clinched the first game and fought hard to stay in touch with his opponent in the second. Eventually, in the third game, the 33-year-old took an early lead and stayed in front to celebrate an impressive win in his first outing of 2021.
Ajay will next face rising star Kunlavut Vitidsarn (eighth seed and 2019 junior world champion) who had beaten India’s Sourabh Verma earlier in the second round.
In men’s doubles, second seeds Satwik-Chirag pulled off a superb win in a hard-fought match. They beat Pramudya Kusumawardana and Yeremia Rambitan from Indonesia 21-17, 20-22, 21-17 in 70 minutes. Playing his second match of the day, Satwik did not show signs of physical fatigue early on as the pairs pushed each other in lengthy exchanges. In the second game, which looked like a easy deal for the Indonesians at one point, the Indians fought back brilliantly from 11-18 down and even saved two game points to make it 20-20 but their opponents held their nerves to force a third game.
That was no easy affair either with the pumped up duo of Kusumawardana and Rambitan fighting back every time Satwik-Chirag pulled away. From 13-16 down they pushed hard to level things up at 16-16. But the Indians managed to stave off the late challenge and book their place in the last eight.
The Indonesian youngsters, ranked well below the Indians currently, showed why they are ones for the future as well in a match that witnessed scintillating doubles badminton. There were plenty of physical, lengthy rallies and quite a few rapid exchanges at the net as well. In the end, Satwik-Chirag came good in big points to clinch it in three and move in to the quarters which makes it another busy day for the Hyderabad lad. Another bruising battle awaits the Indian duo as they take on Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, the fifth seeds from Malaysia.
Srikanth, who had won the Basel title in 2015, notched up a 21-10, 14-21, 21-14 victory over world No 50 Thomas Rouxel of France. The Indian looked at ease for large parts of the match, except for a blip in the second half of the second game. Not long after, the world No 19 pair of Satwik and Ashwini defeated the Indonesian combination of Rinov Rivaldy and Pitha Haningtyas Mentari 21-18, 21-16 in another second-round match.
Srikanth, a former world no 1, will face now face Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen in the last eight. The world No 18 and sixth seed had beaten Srikanth in their only previous encounter at the 2019 World Championships at the same venue.
Satwik and Ashwini, who reached the semifinals at Toyota Thailand Open Super 1000 in January, will meet fifth-seeded Malaysians Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing.
Back in Basel after her memorable world championship triumph in 2019, Sindhu produced a solid performance to ease past her 40th-ranked opponent Iris Wang from USA. Sindhu needed just 35 minutes to win 21-13, 21-14. She had beaten Yigit Neslihan of Turkey 21-16, 21-19 in her first-round match. The second-seeded Sindhu will face a familiar name in the quarter-finals, where she will take on fifth seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan for the 13th time. Sindhu holds an impressive 11-1 record against the current world No 13.
The Indian challenge in women’s doubles came to an end when Danish duo Amalie Magelund and Freja Ravn defeat Ashwini and Sikki Reddy 21-11, 21-15 in 34 minutes.
Earlier on Wednesday night, two-time former champion Saina Nehwal bowed out of the tournament after a hard-fought first-round loss in the women’s singles opening round. The London Olympic bronze-medallist battled for 58 minutes before going down 16-21, 21-17, 21-23 to Phittayaporn Chaiwan of Thailand. Nehwal bounced back well from losing the opening game and even had two match points in the decider but her 20-year-old opponent held her nerve.
With PTI inputs