Trailing 0-1 in the second game, Tereza Svabikova from Czech Republic retired due to excruciating back pain
A understandably rusty Saina Nehwal fought off a game-point to clinch the only completed game of her campaign-opener in the $400,000 India Open badminton here on Wednesday.
Saina, seeded four, was not required to do much after bouncing back from 19-20 against Tereza Svabikova to win 22-20. Trailing 0-1 in the second game, the player from Czech Republic retired due to excruciating back pain.
The 25th-ranked Saina was happy to get some serious practice against an opponent ranked a distant 142. Despite leading 7-2 and 16-10, Saina could not prevent her rival from catching at 17 and then moving ahead by a point thrice to reach game point. Saina got out of trouble with some clever net-play and added the last two points to take the game.
After the match, Saina said, “For me, match practice is lacking. She was giving me a good fight but unfortunately she got injured.” Saina revealed she started training only a week ago after dealing with a troubled right knee that forced her to miss the World Championship in December.
At the K. D. Jadhav Hall, where the first-round matches ended after two days of action, the percentage of an already-large Indian presence in the men’s singles draw improved after Lakshya Sen, H. S. Prannoy and Mithun Manjunath advanced at the expense of overseas rivals.
Further, the surprise defeat of seventh seed and 28th ranked and 2014 World championship bronze medallist Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto to Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong, ranked 60th, has brightened the prospect of an Indian being in the final.
In women’s doubles, second seeds Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy unexpectedly dropped a game to young compatriots Janani Ananthakumar and Divya R. Balasubramanian.
After the withdrawal of the top seeds, Ashwini and Sikki are widely expected to win the title in a very weak field, filled with inexperienced, home-grown combinations.
For the second seeds in men’s doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, the passage was smooth against Ravi and Chirag Arora. However, seventh seeds Krishna Prasad and Vishunuvardhan Goud lost.
Important first-round results (Indians unless stated):
Men: Mithun Manjunath bt Arnaud Merkle (Fra) 21-16, 15-21, 21-10; H. S. Prannoy bt Pablo Abian (Esp) 21-14, 21-17; Lakshya Sen bt Adham Hatem Elgamal (Egy) 21-15, 21-7; Ng Tze Yong (Mas) bt Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) 21-16, 14-21, 21-5; Nihat Nguyen (Ire) bt Ajay Jayaram 19-21, 21-7, 21-14; (Doubles): Hee Hong Kai Terry & Loh Kean Hean (Sgp) bt Krishna Prasad & Vishnuvardhan Goud 21-16, 21-16; Satwiksairaj Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty bt Ravi & Chirag Arora 21-14, 21-10.
Women: Akarshi Kashyap bt Anura Prabhudesai 21-14, 21-14; Malvika Bansod bt Samiya Imad Farooqui 21-18, 21-9; Saina Nehwal bt Tereza Svabikova (Cze) 22-20, 1-0 (retd.); (Doubles): Ashwini Ponnappa & N. Sikki Reddy bt Janani Ananthakumar & Divya R. Balasubramanian 21-7, 19-21, 21-13.