India Open 2019: Ashwini-Sikki stop sixth seed Chinese pair

The unseeded Indian pair saved a game-point before registering a hard-fought 22-20, 21-19 triumph over China’s Li Wenmei and Zheng Yu in 47 minutes.

India's Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy (left) progressed to the pre-quarters of India Open on Tuesday.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

 

Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy drew from their vast experience and raised the bar when needed, to stun sixth seeded Chinese pair of Li Wenmei and Zheng Yu for a place in the women doubles pre-quarterfinals of the Indian Open badminton that began here on Tuesday.

The unseeded Indian pair saved a game-point before registering a hard-fought 22-20, 21-19 triumph in 47 minutes. The third strongest Chinese pair is ranked 18th, compared to the home combination, placed 22nd in the world.

READ: Axelsen wary of 'dangerous' Indian shuttlers

On a day when the several singles qualifying matches witnessed all-India affairs, Ashwini and Sikki posted a psycologically important victory in their first clash against the fancied Chinese pair.

The Indians trailed for the major part of the first game, the biggest lead for the Chinese being 11-7. Ashwini controlled the rallies well from the back-court while Sikki took time to get her act right upfront.

READ | Chinese top seeds pull out; Sindhu, Axelsen new favourites

After reeling off four straight points to draw level, the Indians stayed within two points of their rivals until the game-point was reached. Undeterred, Ashwini attacked relentlessly, with apt support from Sikki and the duo reeled off three points to take the first game.

RELATED | Satwik - Chirag pull out of India Open

In the second, the home pair led 17-14 to raise visions of victory but dropped the next three points, erring in their hurry to finish off the rallies. Soon, the Indians squandered a two-point lead at 19-17 before regaining control to seal the match.

Given the fact that the Indians are in the same quarter as the top seeded Indonesian pair, Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu, it will take them another Herculean effort to advance past the quarterfinals.

In the only other upset of the day, in men's doubles, Chinese Taipei's Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin accounted for fourth seeded Russians Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov 19-21, 23-21, 21-19.

The action will truly warm up on Wednesday with the commencement of the singles main draw.