Saina wins opener; Taufik Hidayat bites the dust
Birmingham: Great Indian hope Saina Nehwal cruised into the second round of the All England Open badminton championships, but most of her singles compatriots suffered reverses in the opening round matches on Wednesday.
Mixed doubles pair V Diju and Jwala Gutta had a brilliant victory against a fancied Korean pair in the first round, but crashed out on Thursday. After beating Yoo Yeon Soo/ Kim Min Jung 21-23 21-13 25-23 – one of their best wins ever – the Indian pair was tamed by the Chinese duo Tao Jiaming/ Qing Tian 21-11 21-12. The other two Indian doubles teams – Jwala/ Ashwini Ponnappa and Rupesh Kumar/ Sanave Thomas – also moved to the second round. Apart from Saina, all the other Indian singles players – P Kashyap, Ajay Jayaram and Anand Pawar – bit the dust.
Saina overcame a jittery start to defeat spirited Korean Seung Hee Bae 21-13, 21-16 in 34 minutes and set up a clash with Tzu Ying Tai after the Chinese Taipei player beat Bulgaria’s Linda Zechiri. Meanwhile, Indonesian great Taufik Hidayat’s jinx at the All England continued, as he crashed out in the first round to Japan’s Kazushi Yamada 21-10 21-14. Hidayat has never won the All England.
Saina found it hard to adjust to the drift initially, which she said was equally fast on both sides of the court, making it very difficult to play out long rallies.
“When I started the match, I was making a lot of mistakes. I was not really able to adjust to the drift which was on both sides of the court. It was quite shocking to see that because normally it is fast on one side and slow on the other but today it was equally fast on both sides,” the 21-year-old said after the match.
Admittedly jittery in the opening game, Saina said she gained in confidence as the match progressed, banking mainly on smashes to fetch the winners.
“In the second game, I was quite confident. I took a big lead but then she came back strong. In the end, my smashes helped. They were going good and saved me at that stage,” she said.
With two top players — Tine Baun and Wang Yihan — pulling out of the tournament, the world number five Indian has a very favourable draw devoid of any Chinese players in her half but she said it is more unnerving than reassuring because the expectations will be high from her.
“I feel more nervous this time because all the other girls are good. Even my next round opponent is tough. You can’t really take anyone lightly. I am just hoping that I do well,” she said.
While Jayaram was beaten by Indonesia’s Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka 21-17, 21-19, Kashyap lost 11-21, 21-8, 17-21 to Germany’s Marc Zwiebler. Pawar, meanwhile, went down 16-21 18-21 to Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in 31 minutes.
Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas beat Malaysia’s Teik Chai Gan and Bin Shen Tan 21-13, 21-18 to enter the second round. They will face eighth seeded Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Bona Septano. Agencies