Star Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth registered a stunning straight-game win over world number 4 Lee Zii Jia but Commonwealth Games champion Lakshya Sen suffered a shock defeat in the opening round of the Japan Open Super 750 tournament here on Wednesday.
Srikanth, a former world number 1, recovered from his early exit from last week’s World Championships, to outwit fifth seed Lee 22-20 23-21 in his men’s singles opener which lasted 37 minutes. It was his first win over the Malaysian in four meetings.
The 21-year-old Sen, a 2021 world championships bronze medallist, however, squandered an opening game advantage to go down 21-18 14-21 13-21 to world number 21 Japanese Kenta Nishimoto in his first match.
London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was also no match for top seed Akane Yamaguchi as she lost 9-21 17-21 to the local favourite in 30 minutes.
Fast-rising men’s doubles pairing of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, who jumped nine places to reach world number 26 after a quarterfinal finish at the World Championships, also lost 21-19 21-23 15-21 to Korean combination of Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Won Ho after wasting a match point in the second game.
In other results, Birmingham Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly lost 17-21 18-21 to seventh seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai of Thailand in women’s doubles category.
Mixed doubles pair of Juhi Dewangan and Venkat Gaurav Prasad lost 11-21 10-21 to Chinese top seed Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong in 23 minutes.
It was a gritty performance from world number 14 Srikanth, who is often guilty of not being able to close out narrow matches, despite doing all the hard work in setting up the points.
On Wednesday, Srikanth once again found himself in a similar position when he almost wasted a 15-11 advantage by allowing Lee to grab three game points but the Indian held on to his nerves to reel off five points on the trot to leave his younger rival stranded and seal the opening game.
Stung by the opening game reversal, Lee showed a lot of purpose after the change of sides. He opened up a 2-0 lead early on and ensured a slender one-point advantage in the interval.
Lee stepped up a gear to move to 14-11 but soon things changed as Srikanth turned the tables to grab a 18-16 lead and then stood just two points away from a win at 20-18.
It seemed there will be another twist in the tale as Lee this time saved two match points and earned himself a game point but Srikanth ensured there were no hiccups as he pocketed the required three points to shut the door on the Malaysian.
In the other singles, Lakshya was by far the better player in the opening game as he quickly ran up a 7-2 lead and jumped to 15-9 at one stage, before pocketing the game comfortably.
The Indian also made a good start to the second, opening up 8-4 lead but soon he lost control as Nishimoto dished out a sensational fightback to win 9 of the next 10 points to roar back into the contest.
Suddenly the momentum completely shifted as Lakshya seemed clueless even as Nishimoto dominated right from the start to keep moving ahead as the Indian crumbled in the decider.
On Tuesday, HS Prannoy had advanced to the second round after his opponent Hong Kong’s Ng ka Long Angus retired midway through the opening match.
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