Malaysian qualifier Iskandar Zulkarnain made the most of K. Srikanth’s lack of match-practice and emerged as the most unlikely winner of the men pre-quarterfinals in the USD 350,000 India Open badminton tournament here on Thursday.
The second seeded Indian, playing his first event of the year, committed far too many unforced errors against a rival who, in contrast, came up with some spectacular retrieves. Eventually, the 21-19, 21-17 result left Zulkarnain a worthy winner.
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While the women singles quarterfinals were duly filled by all eight seeded players, led by P. V. Sindhu, the men singles’ draw has no clear favourite after Srikanth’s exit. Zulkarnain was delighted with his effort that could well serve as an early impetus to his campaigns this year. “Last year, I suffered from a slipped disc and could return to the competition only in September. My coach and friends in Malaysia wanted me to perform so I was pushing myself. This victory (over Srikanth) is a very good one for me because he is very attacking and difficult to beat,” said the man who won seven out of the last eight points.
‘Happy to be back’
Srikanth has not shown form since injuries and muscle-strain, by turns, forced him to miss tournaments beginning with the China Open in November. He said, “I am happy to be back on the court. I am moving well. Today, I was in the match in both the games, in fact, I was leading 16-14 in the second game, but on the big points, he was better.”
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Even the women second seed, Carolina Marin, was in trouble but against China’s Gao Fangjie but battled back from a one-game deficit. Ranked 50th, the Chinese girl had beaten Marin in their only previous encounter in the China Open last November. Marin, looking in danger of being on the losing side again, raised her game and eased through the second and third games.
Earlier, in mixed doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy upstaged World No. 11 and third seeded Malaysian combination Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing 21-16, 15-21, 23-21 after saving a match-point.
- Men singles: Qiao Bin (Chn) bt Kartikey Gulshan Kumar 21-17, 21-3; P. Kashyap bt Shreyansh Jaiswal 19-21, 21-19, 21-12; Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) bt Daren Liew (Mal) 21-19, 17-21, 21-16; B. Sai Praneeth bt Hu Yun (Hkg) 21-10, 21-15; Wang Tzu Wei (Tpe) bt Vladimir Malkov (Rus) 19-21, 21-18, 21-12; Shi Yuqi (Chn) bt Hsu Jen Hao (Tpe) 21-10, 21-17; Sameer Verma bt Tommy Sugiarto (21-18, 19-21, 21-17; Iskandar Zulkarnain (Mal) bt K. Srikanth 21-19, 21-17.
- Women singles: P. V. Sindhu bt Linga Zetchiri (Bul) 21-10, 24-11; Beatriz Corrales (Esp) bt G. Ruthvika Shivani 21-19, 21-16; Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) bt Aakarshi Kashyap 21-11, 21-12; Yip Pui Yin (Hkg) bt Lyanny Alessandra Mainaky (Ina) 21-13, 21-14; Beiwen Zhang (USA) bt Agrey Mugdha 21-12, 21-16; Saina Nehwal bt Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt (Den) 21-12, 21-11; Cheung Ngan Yi (Hkg) bt Thamolwan Poopradubsil (Tha) 21-4, 21-7; Carolina Marin (Esp) bt Gao Fangjie (Chn) 15-21, 21-15, 21-11.
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