South Korea's Sung Ji-Hyun prevailed in an intense first round encounter over India's P.V. Sindhu at the All England Open Badminton Championship.
Sindhu saved nine match points, four in the second game and five in the decider, but it was just not enough for the Indian to see the contest through.
Sindhu was steamrollered in the first game 21-16 as the Indian took her time to adjust to the South Korean's pace and agility.
In men’s singles, 2017 Singapore Open champion B Sai Praneeth defeated compatriot HS Prannoy 21-19 21-19 in a pulsating contest
Fifth-seeded Sindhu, who was beaten by Sung Ji twice in last three meetings, lost 16-21 22-20 18-21, despite saving as many as eight match points in the second and third game.
Sindhu went into the opener with an overall record of a 8-6 against Sung Ji but the Korean once again troubled the Indian in the 81-minute thrilling clash which went down to the wire.
Sindhu showed grit in the closing moments of the second and third game but also committed too many unforced errors during the match.
The Indian saved three match points at 17-20 in the second game to take the match to the decider, during which she saved five match points before suffering her fourth first-round loss at the USD 1 million event.
Sung Ji will face Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi in the second round.
“I think I could have not given her big lead at the starting. It was too many points and it was difficult to cover,” Sindhu said after the loss.
“It was my bad luck probably as my mid court smashes were going to net. I was just hitting out but overall it was good match and she played well. She has good anticipations and there were long rallies.
“I had trained enough but it was just not my day. Such matches keep happening and I have to take it as a challenge and come back stronger.”
The women’s doubles pair of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram also fought hard before losing 21-18 12-21 12-21 to the Russian combination of Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Daveltova.
The opening clash between Sindhu and Sung Ji turned out to be a thrilling contest. Sindhu enjoyed a 6-3 lead early on but Sung Ji drew level, helped by Sindhu’s poor judgement.
The Korean kept up the attack and entered the first interval with a lead of 11-8 after the Indian hit the net. Sindhu dominated the rallies after the breather and drew parity at 11-11 with a cross-court smash.
However, the Indian struggled with her timing and committed too many unforced errors to allow the Korean a cushion of 16-14. Sung Ji continued to gather points and clinched four game points. The Korean sealed it without much fuss when Sindhu struck out again.
After the change of sides, Sindhu found the going tough with Sung Ji grabbing a 11-8 advantage at the break.
After the breather, Sindhu managed to make it 13-13 with some precise returns. Sindhu tried to put pressure on her rival in the rallies but Sung Ji remained determined and led 18-14.
Sindhu continued to struggle with her strokes and buried two of her returns into the net, giving Sung Ji a lead of 18-14. Sindhu narrowed the deficit to 17-18 before sending another cross-court smash wide. Sung Ji grabbed three match points after that.
However, the Indian produced a razor sharp cross court return and engaged her rival in the longest rally of the match to save three points. Sung Ji hit the net to give a game point to the Indian, who sealed it with a body smash to roar back into the contest.
In the decider, the duo engaged in some good rallies but Sung Ji again had a two-point advantage at the interval after reeling off four straight points. The Korean kept pushing forward, moving to a 15-9 lead at one stage.
A wide shot broke her run of points but Sindhu committed a service error and followed it up with two more unforced errors to allow Sung Ji to lead 18-10.
Sung Ji soon grabbed as many as seven match points with a superb return near the net. Sindhu did save five of them but it just wasn’t enough.
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