PV Sindhu shocked, 3 Indian men enter quarters at Japan Open badminton
While it was heartbreak for Pusarla Venkata Sindhu with loads of expectations weighing on her shoulders, unheralded young Indian men - Ajay Jayaram, HS Prannoy and K Srikanth - all punched above their weight to book quarter-final berths at the Japan Open.
World Championship bronze medallist and ranked No. 12, India's PV Sindhu was handed a surprise second round defeat by Japanese qualifier Akane Yamaguchi in the USD 200,000 Japan Open Super Series badminton event on Thursday. (PV Sindhu drops out of top-10 in world rankings)
The eighth-seed Sindhu lost 6-21 17-21 to the little-known local player in a 32-minute long women's singles match at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. Sindhu had yesterday beaten another Japanese qualifier Yukino Nakai 21-12, 21-13 in just 29 minutes.
Interestingly, top-seeded Li Xuerui of China, who was in Sindhu's side of the women's singles draw, is out of the championships too. Olympic champion Xuerui gave a first-round walkover to Japanese Aya Ohori. This meant that Sindhu could have had an easy route to the semi-finals.
In the men's section though, it was a brilliant day for India with 3 of its players making it to the quarter-finals. Young Indian shuttlers K Srikanth, Ajay Jayaram and H S Prannoy advanced after winning their respective second round games.
World No. 56 Prannoy, who has been in rollicking form in the Indian badminton League last month, once again punched above his weight, surpassing Denmark's Jan O Jorgensen, ranked ninth, 21-14, 13-21, 21-17 in a 53-minute match.
Srikanth, who has also acquired a giant-killing reputation with his recent exploits, continued his carnage, defeating Japan's Kazuteru Kozai 21-12 21-16 in just over half an hour in another men's singles match.
Another fast-improving player, 25-year-old Jayaram, made it to the quarters with a hard-fought win over another Japanese qualifier Yuichi Ikeda. The world No. 23 beat the local lad 21-13, 11-21, 21-18.
India's men's doubles pair of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy B though could not get across the more experienced combo of fourth seeded Chinese Xiaolong Liu and Zihan Qiuand lost 17-21 16-21 in a 36-minute encounter.
The highlight of the day for India was Prannoy's gritty performance as he rode on his mighty smashes and energetic display at the nets to tame the 25-year-old Dane, who had won the silver medal at 2010 European Badminton Championships.
Down 1-4 early on, Prannoy soon erased the deficit to catch up with Jorgensen and then charted his own way from 9-9 and used his smashes to good use to lead the match 1-0 after the first game.
Not ready to take it lying low, Jorgensen once again opened up a slender 4-2 lead and though the Indian had clawed back, the Dane was successful in breaking the deadlock at 9-9 and then maintaining the distance to comeback into the contest.
In the decider, it was Prannoy's turn to held the early lead and despite a gallant effort by Jorgensen to thwart his young rival's challenge, the Indian was able to keep the match within his grasp. Leading 18-17, Prannoy grabbed the next three points to make his entry into the quarters.
Prannoy, who won the silver in the Boys' singles event at the 2010 Youth Olympics, has been in good touch ever since making a comeback after being out of action due to an injury.
The 21-year-old had beaten some big names such as Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana in Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and Taufik Hidayat in India Open.
(With PTI inputs)