At the end of the second round, the harsh reality of the current state of Indian badminton was in full view.
In a classy Indian Open field that showcased not only the creamy layer of world badminton but also those who are closing in on them, the home interest died young at the $900,000 mega event.
On the eve of the quarterfinals, India’s current torch-bearers - Lakshya Sen and the duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty exited in contrasting ways. Soon, Saina Nehwal’s meek surrender confirmed the worst fear of those waiting to throng the Indira Gandhi Stadium to cheer at least one Indian over the weekend.
Lakshya battled hard against Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke but after 81 minutes found himself on the knees and head bent over his tired hands in despair after hitting the shuttle long to commit the last of his unforced errors.
Credit to Gemke for his 16-21, 21-15, 21-18 triumph during which he dealt smartly with a resurgent Lakshya and a vociferous crowd. The Dane bounced back from the loss of the first game to seize control of the second and never trailed in the third.
In the decider, Gemke saw off Lakshya’s resurgence that began at 8-14 and brought him to 17-18. At this stage, Lakshya shot himself in the foot by serving long. He did win the next point with a forehand placement but thereafter Gemke gave nothing away. A fortuitous net-chord contact brought Gemke match-point. It was over when Lakshya hit out when he had Gemke at his mercy.
An injury to Satwik forced the Indian pair to withdraw against China’s Liu Yu Chen-Ou Xuan Yi, a pair they beat last week in the Malaysia Open.
Later, a fast-fading Saina made a friendly appearance against Chen Yu Fei without challenging the Chinese for a 21-9, 21-12 beating.
Saina, whose tired-looking on-court movements indicated that she had not fully recovered from her three game escape to victory in the opening round on Tuesday.
No doubt, Saina came to fight. But Chen did not let her. In fact, in 32 minutes, for every point that Saina won, Chen claimed two. After the early exchanges in the opening game, a variety of errors crept in Saina’s game. In short, the winner was not difficult to guess well before the final point of won and lost.
Earlier, it hardly came as a surprise as two other Indian pairs - G. Krishna Prasad-P. Vishnuvardhan Goud and Treesa Jolly-P. Gayatri - surrendered tamely to their Chinese rivals.
Leading second round results (Indians unless stated):
Men’s singles: Rasmus Gemke (Den) bt Lakshya Sen 16-21, 21-15, 21-18; Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Shi Yu Qi (Chn) 21-16, 16-21, 21-9; 3-Loh Kean Yew (Sin) bt Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) 21-18, 21-17; Jonatan Christie (Ina) bt Zhao Jun Peng (Chn) 21-19, 15-21, 21-12;Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) bt Wang Tzu Wei (Tpe) 18-21, 21-17, 21-10
Women’s singles: Chen Yu Fei (Chn) bt Saina Nehwal 21-9, 21-12; Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) b Han Yue (Chn) 21-14, 21-14; Carolina Marin (Esp) bt Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) 21-16, 21-16; He Bing Jiao (Chn) bt Kim Ga Eun (Kor) 21-18, 21-15.
Men’s doubles: Liu Yu Chen-Ou Xuan Yi (Chn) received a walkover from Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty; Liang Wei Keng-Wang Chang (Chn) bt G. Krishna Prasad-P. Vishnuvardhan Goud 21-14, 21-10.
Women’s doubles: Zhang Shu Xian-Zheng Yu (Chn) bt Treesa Jolly-P. Gayatri 21-9, 21-16.