Lacklustre day for India at All-England Open

The Indian men's doubles duo of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy lost in three sets 21-16, 13-21, 15-21 against Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan of Malaysia. H. S. Prannoy lost his singles encounter to China's Xue Song, and so, too, did Ajay Jayaram, after a 61-minute tussle with N. G. Ka Long Angus.

H. S. Prannoy dominated his opponent for the most part in the first game, but lost his way in the second.   -  PTI (File Photo)

H. S. Prannoy, the Indian shuttler ranked 26 in the BWF world rankings, lost his opening encounter in the All-England Open to China's Xue Song 22-20, 21-15. Among other Indians, the men's doubles duo of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy lost in three sets 21-16, 13-21, 15-21 against Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan of Malaysia, and the women's pair of Ashwini Ponappa and Jwala Gutta lost to Netherlands' Samantha Barning and Iris Tabeling 26-24, 21-17.

Prannoy dominated for the most part in the first game, after having established an early lead at 5-2. He looked to have the game in the pocket at 18-11, but Song, then, won six points in a row to close the gap. The game see-sawed from there to have the players locked at 20-20, at which juncture Song won two consecutive points to bag the first game. The next game was a one-sided one; besides gaining a one-point lead as a result of wining the first point of the game, Prannoy was always in the deficit as Song ran away with the contest.

Ashwini and Jwala led 16-12 in the first game, before the game went neck-and-neck before Barning and Tabeling clinched the game. The second game was also dominated by the Indian pair in the first half, leading 12-6, before losing their way. They lost three straight points at 15-15 and could not recover.

Ajay Jayaram, ranked 21 in the world, put up a solid fight against N. G. Ka Long Angus, but after 61 minutes, lost in three sets 21-18, 19-21, 21-19.

Long, Dan win

World number one Chen Long and Olympic champion Lin Dan gave China an encouraging start to the first Super Series event of 2016 as each carefully overcame tricky hurdles to reach the second round of the All-England Open. The two stars have seven All-England titles between them, and revealed some of this vast experience in negotiating early difficulties with cold conditions by winning in straight games against ambitious younger opponents.

Chen won 21-18, 21-12 against Kent Nishikoro, a 21-year-old Japanese who led early on and was still in touch in the middle part of the second game before a little extra pace and variety from the titleholder killed off his challenge.

Lin won 21-17, 21-17 against Lee Dong Keun, a 25-year-old South Korean who turned the match into a good scrap in many long rallies, but found his legendary opponent playing a little better when it mattered.

Lin took five of the last seven points in the first game and the last four points in the second, which gave the score-line a more comfortable look than the match actually had. "It's going it to be difficult for me," said Lin, who hopes to earn the chance to try for a record third Olympic gold medal in Rio in five months' time.

"There is fierce competition - and within the Chinese team as well." Lin next plays the winner of Sho Sasaki of Japan and Wei Nan of Hongkong.

Chen was bolder in his predictions. "The draw is very tough and challenging, but I am confident I can win (the All-England) again this year," he said. "Sometimes you play thinking it is a bad draw, and you play quite well. It's up to me to fight for it."

He certainly does have a far from easy draw. Chen next plays his compatriot Xue Song, and could go on to face Lin Dan in the semis.

It almost became easier when Viktor Axelsen, Chen's conqueror in the Super Series finals in Dubai in December, was forced to save a match point in the second game before surviving 14-21, 22-20, 22-20 against Brice Leverdez, the 36th-ranked Frenchman. If both win again they will meet again.

Marin survives scare

The top seed in the women's singles, Carolina Marin, also found herself in early difficulties.

The world and All-England champion from Spain survived 25-23, 20-22, 21-15 against Bae Yeon Ju, the world number 15 from South Korea, but had to save a game point in the first game and failed to convert two match points in the second. "Last week I got a shoulder injury and couldn't train hard," Marin said. "It wasn't a good performance and I'm just happy I won." She next plays Maria Febe Kusumastuti of Indonesia.

(With inputs from agencies)

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