Reigning world champion PV Sindhu made an impressive start at the All England Badminton Championships along with promising doubles duo Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty as the Super 1000 event got underway on Wednesday in Birmingham after hours of delay due to Covid-19 retesting.

However, compatriots Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap suffered early exits after losing their respective opening round singles matches on Wednesday.

On her 31st birthday, Nehwal — who was making her 15th straight appearance at the All England — had to retire hurt mid-way through the second game against seventh seed Mia Blichfeldt. The Indian former world No 1 seemed to be struggling with a thigh issue and was heard telling the officials that her quad is hurting to bring a close to the match that the Dane was leading 21-8, 10-4.

Earlier, Olympic silver medallist Sindhu came through a good test, showing good court coverage and controlling the shuttle well for large parts. She dished out a disciplined performance to outwit world No 32 Soniia Cheah of Malaysia 21-11, 21-17 in 38 minutes.

Some members of the Indian contingent, along with others who had reportedly returned positive tests, were among those retested overnight as the Badminton World Federation pushed the start of the tournament to afternoon local time by which time everyone concerned received the all-clear.

It was a fairly even start to the match but Sindhu took control as the opening game progressed. From 7-7 at one point, Sindhu closed it out 21-11.

All England Open: Eyes on elusive title apart, PV Sindhu’s big-event mettle will be tested again

Much like the opening game, Cheah made a good start to the second. From 8-8, the Malaysian went into a 10-8 lead. But Sindhu came back with a couple of strong points before an error from Cheah gave the Indian an 11-10 lead at the interval.

Just when it seemed Sindhu will close the match out comfortably, Cheah fought back from 14-17 down to make it 17-17. But the Indian upped the intensity again with a series of good points to have three match points and convert the first.

The fifth-seeded Indian will face Denmark’s Line Christophersen next ahead of a potential quarter-final against former world No 1 Akane Yamaguchi.

The Indian women’s duo of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy and men’s doubles pair of Satwiksaira and Chirag progressed to the second round with straight-game wins.

Earlier, Ashwini and Sikki got the better of Thailand’s Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard 21-14 21-12 in 30 minutes, while the sixth seeded Satwik and Chirag took 19 minutes to see off England’s Nikhar Garg and India’s Aniruddha Mayekar 21-7 21-10 in a lop-sided contest.

Ashwini and Sikki will face sixth seeded Bulgarian sisters Gabriela Stoeva and Stefani Stoeva next, while Satwik and Chirag will meet the formidable Danish pair of Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, who had defeated the Indian duo on way to their title win at the Swiss Open earlier this month.

The shock of the day from Srikanth in the men’s singles. Seeded eight, Srikanth lost to Ireland’s unseeded player Nguyen Nhat 11-21, 21-15, 12-21. His match lasted exactly an hour as the player from Ireland came back strongly after losing the second game against the Indian. Nguyen was a late addition to the draw to replace experience Indonesian shuttler Tommy Sugiarto. But the world No 57 pulled off one of the results of the opening day.

Elsewhere, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kashyap put up a brave fight before going down to top-seeded Japanese Kento Momota 13-21 2-22 in 42 minutes. World No 1 Momota made a winning return to the BWF tour after being sidelined due to an accident in January 2020.

The opening game saw Momota start and finish with a flurry of points while Kashyap battled it out in the middle phase. The second game to saw Kashyap fight back repeatedly, the Indian even saving three match points to take the game into extra points. But Momota steadied himself for a solid if unspectacular comeback to the international circuit.

In other results, Malaysian pair of Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi ended the campaign of Indian men’s combo of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila with a 21-13 21-12 win, while the women’s duo of Jakkampudi Meghana and Poorvisha S Ram also bowed out after losing 10-21 15-21 to Denmark’s Alexandra Boje and Mette Poulsen.

In another match, Denmark’s Alexandra Boje and Mette Poulsen defeated Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram 21-10, 21-15 in 30 minutes in the women’s doubles.

(With PTI inputs)

Later updates:

  • Indian youngster Lakshya Sen overcame world No 18 Kantaphon Wangchaoren in straight games! He wins 21-18, 21-12 in 49 mins. He has a good chance to reach the quarter-final as he faces world No 47 Thomas Rouxel next.
  • HS Prannoy defeated Malaysia’s Daren Liew 21-10, 21-10 in just 30 minutes to set up a second-round clash against Kento Momota.
  • World Championship bronze medallist Sai Praneeth was made to work hard for his win by Toma Junior Popov. The Indian shuttler was trailing 12-17 in the 2nd game and even faced 2 game points. But he held his nerve to win 21-18, 22-20 in 54 minutes. Sai will face defending champion Viktor Axelsen in the next round after the Dane overcame a massive scare in arguably the match of the day. The second seed prevailed 13-21, 21-19, 21-19 against Koki Watanabe from Japan.

  • Sameer Verma needed just 34 minutes to beat Brazilian shuttler Ygor Coelho 21-11, 21-19. A tough test awaits the Indian in the next round against third seed Anders Antonsen.
  • Making their All England debut, young Indian pair of Ashwini Bhat / Shikha Gautam (national champions in 2019) had some good moments against the English pair of Chloe Birch / Lauren Smith. But the 7th seeds won 21-14, 21-11 in 34 minutes.
  • Dhruv Kapila and Meghana Jakkampudi progressed through to the next round as top seeds Praveen Jordan and Melati Oktavianti had been listed as giving a walkover. According to reports, the entire Indonesian contingent has been asked to withdraw from the tournament.
  • Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram lose 10-21, 15-21 against Alexandra Boje and Mette Poulsen in 30 minutes.
  • It was yet another early-round exit for Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy in the mixed doubles. The Indians lost 15-21, 17-21 in 33 minutes against world No 86 Rasmus Espersen / Christine Busch from Denmark.