London Games bronze winner Saina Nehwal and two-time World Championship bronze medallist, P. V. Sindhu made a resounding start to their badminton campaign at the Rio Olympics but it turned out to be a dismal day for the Indian doubles players, here today.
Former World No. 1 Saina staved off a spirited challenge from World No. 73 Brazilian girl Vicente Lohaynny 21-17, 21-17 in a women's singles match which lasted 39 minutes at the Riocentro here.
The World Championship silver medallist Indian will next take on World No. 61 Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in a Group G match on August 14.
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The 26-year-old from Hyderabad took 20 minutes to pocket the opening game before sealing the issue by wrapping up the second game in 19 minutes.
Ninth seed Sindhu too had a good day in office as she spanked Laura Sarosi of Hungary 21-8, 21-9 in a Group M women's singles match that lasted for 27 minutes.
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She will play against Glasgow Commonwealth Games champion Li Michelle of Canada on August 14 to complete the preliminary group engagements.
Sindhu didn't break any sweat against her World No. 64 rival as she took 13 and 14 minutes to wrap up the first and second games.
Earlier, the Indian combination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa was off to a disappointing start in the women's doubles event, losing 15-21, 10-21 to the World No. 1 Japanese pair of Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsumoto in a match which lasted 36 minutes in their Group A opener.
The Indians will next be up against the world No. 11 Dutch pair of Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek in their second group clash tomorrow.
In the men's doubles competition, Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy lost 18-21, 13-21 to World No. 2 Indonesian duo of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.
Manu and Sumeeth fought hard in the opening game before running out of steam. They will be facing the World No. 5 Chinese pair of Biao Chai and Wei Hong.
Jwala and Ashwini opened a 4-1 lead but ended up blowing it away in no time after the Japanese pair put across some targetted deep returns which the Indians failed to judge.
The World No.1 pair, in contrast, were quick on their feet and returned everything that the Indians threw at them. Jwala and Ashwini, who were struggling to coordinate their moves, trailed 8-11 at the first lemon break and could not bridge the gap even once.
The Japanese pair produced a couple of brilliant winners — a backhand flick down the line by Matsumoto being particularly impressive — to wrap up the opening game in 19 minutes without breaking much of a sweat.
The second game followed a similar script with Takahashi and Matsumoto racing to a 6-3 lead. The top seeds capitalised on Jwala and Ashwini's apparent lack of rhythm and managed to send down winners in open gaps. Jwala and Ashwini were found wanting close to the net as well and ended up committing quite a few unforced errors to lose the match rather timidly.
After the match, Ashwini said: "It was a tough first round outing. I think we could have played a better match. Overall it's pretty okay. Now is the time to focus on the next match. We have played them before. Not going to take them lightly. They are a good pair as well.
"We have to be a little more consistent tomorrow and hang in there. The two of us are going to give our best & fight all out to go and win."
Jwala said: "We always knew the first one would be tough. Good to get over the tough one first up itself. I think the quality was pretty okay. They are World No. 1 and Ashwini and I played quite good. Little more consistency needed. Tomorrow our opponents standard won't be so high, so I am pretty confident. If we are able to continue the way we are playing, we will win tomorrow. We moved a lot today, long rallies."
Manu and Sumeeth, who also suffered a loss today, said: "We played really well. First set we played well, 2nd set many unforced errors. They are one of the world's top pair. We guys played well in the first match. It was a good game.
On their next opponents World No. 5 Chinese pair, Manu said: "We have beaten them in the All England Championships last year. We still have a good chance of qualifying. We will give our best."
It is their debut Olympics and Manu and Sumeeth said they are happy with their effort so far.
"Really happy with the show," Manu said.
Sumeeth: "I'm happy with the effort. These were tougher opponents but the Chinese (next opponents) we have beaten them. With the game we are not unsatisfied. The confidence is still there."
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