Japan Open: It’s PV Sindhu vs Nozomi Okuhara, againSeptember 21, 2017
AGPUR: PV Sindhu rallied splendidly to overcome experienced Japanese Minatsu Mitani to set up another mouth watering clash with World Champion Nozomi Okuhara in the Japan Open Super Series Badminton tournament in Tokyo on Wednesday.
The second day of the six-day competition turned out to be a fruitful one for the Indians with Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma and new pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Ashwini Ponnappa registering first round wins in their respective categories.
Fourth seed Sindhu struggled to get past Mitani 12-21, 21-15, 21-17 in the first round. After losing the opening game quite easily, the Rio Olympics silver medallist was under tremendous pressure. However, she regrouped in the nick of the time to stop the dangerous World No. 19 in an hour and four minutes.
Another Japanese challenge and a stiff one in the form of Okuhara awaits her on Thursday. Okuhara leads the battle 4-3 including the epic win in the World Championship final in Glasgow last month. But Sindhu has the psychological advantage having ousted her in the final of the Korea Open last week.
Unlike Sindhu, Saina cruised to victory in her first round outing. The World Championship bronze medallist made short work of Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand 21-17, 21-9 in just 40 minutes.
Unseeded Saina will now square off against fifth seed Carolina Marin of Spain in another blockbuster clash on Thursday. World No. 12 Saina leads 4-3 against the reigning Olympic champion.
In the men’s singles, Srikanth’s victory was the highlight of the day. The eighth seed downed his nemesis of last two years Tian Houwei 21-15, 12-21, 21-11, to somewhat correct a miserable 1-6 record against the Chinese shuttler.
The winner of the Indonesia and Australian Open Super Series in June, Srikanth will take on Hong Kong’s HU Yun Hu for a spot in the quarterfinals. So far, it’s 2-2 between them.
“It was a close match. I always wanted to stay focused and it worked well for me today. It was a good win today in three sets and the kind of start I wanted,” Srikanth told TOI after his gruelling 64-minute victory.
Srikanth’s compatriot Prannoy was also in a dazzling form as he thrashed Denmark’s Anders Antonsen in straight games. The 20-year-old Danish youngster is regarded as a future champion but Prannoy handed him a lesson.
The world No. 18 will now meet world No. 27 Chinese Taipei’s Jen Hao Hsu, who leads the head-to-head record 2-0.
“Overall it was a good match. I didn’t give him easy chances to attack so it was working well for me. It was the start which I wanted here in Tokyo. After a convincing win against the Dane and I am ready for tomorrow’s pre-quarterfinals,” said Prannoy.
Indian Results (Round 1)
Men’s singles: 8-Kidambi Srikanth bt Tian Houwei (China) 21-15, 12-21, 21-11; HS Prannoy bt Anders Antonsen (Denmark) 21-12, 21-14; Sameer Verma bt Khosit Phetpradab (Thailand) 21-12, 21-19; Sourabh Verma lost to 7-Lin Dan (China) 21-11, 15-21, 13-21; B Sai Praneeth lost to Lee Dong Keun (Korea) 23-21, 17-21, 14-21.