India Open: Easy for leading women seeds

Injured H. S. Prannoy and Ajay Jayaram make first-round exit.

Saina Nehwal in action at the Indian Open on Wednesday. Saina defeated Sofie Holmboe Dahl 21-15, 21-9 in the first round.   -  PTI

Given a choice, H. S. Prannoy would have joined World champion Viktor Axelsen on the list of withdrawals for the USD 350,000 India Open badminton here. But the new Badminton World Federation rules left him with no choice.

Having developed “corns at, at least 2-3 places” on his foot, the World No. 10 took the court for the first time in 15 days and lost 4-21, 6-21 to qualifier Shreyansh Jaiswal to make a first-round exit in just 13 minutes.

With the new rules stipulating the top 15 players to play at least 12 of the 15 World Tour events spread over three levels, Prannoy could not afford to miss the event since had already skipped two events this month.

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“Again, as per the new rules, conceding a match to a same country opponent does not bring any ranking points. So I had to play (for ranking points)” said an obviously-disappointed Prannoy, seeded five.

Later in the day, an injured Ajay Jayaram followed Prannoy’s route and retired after playing just two points against Tommy Sugiarto.

Surprise of the day

Sameer Verma provided the surprise of the day by taking out a sketchy seventh seed Anders Antonsen 22-20, 21-8 after saving two game-points in the opener. In the second game, Sameer raced away from 7-6 and won 14 out of the next 16 points!

Antonsen, a semifinalist last year, was the second Dane to fall to an Indian. Earlier, P. Kashyap scored over Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus in straight games. This was in contrast to B. Sai Praneeth’s three-game victory over England, Rajiv Ouseph, the finalist of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

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Praneeth had to break away from 16-all in the deciding game for a 21-11, 17-21, 21-17 victory in 61 minutes. Favourite K. Srikanth advanced with a testing 21-17, 21-18 victory over Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu without being seriously threatened on the big points.

The women singles followed a predictable course with the top four seeds – P. V. Sindhu, Carolina Marin, Ratchanok Intanon and Saina Nehwal – opening their campaigns with victories. However, the fifth seed Beiwan Zhang – Saina’s prospective rival in the quarterfinals – was taken to the decider by Vaishnavi Reddy.

The lack of depth in the women singles was evident with all the pre-match favourites advancing to the second round.