Free Press Journal

Saina advances, Kashyap to face Srikanth in Japan


Saina Nehwal

Tokyo: Top Indian singles shuttlers Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, Kidambi Srikanth and H.S. Prannoy all progressed to the second round of their respective categories after notching up contrasting victories in their openers at the $275,000 Japan Open Superseries here on Wednesday.

Though second seed Saina progressed to the Round of 16, the possibility of facing compatriot P.V. Sindhu next vanished as the tall and lanky shuttler lost her women’s singles opener. Ajay Jayaram and B. Sai Praneeth went down in their men’s singles first round matches at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

Olympic bronze medallist Saina took off well as she had a clean 21-14, 22-20 victory in 42 minutes over Thai Busanan Ongbumrungpan. The World Championship silver medallist will next take on Minatsu Mitani of Japan, who accounted for the loss of Sindhu, beating the two-time World Championship bronze medallist 21-13, 17-21, 21-11 in exactly an hour.

World No.1 Saina has a 5-2 advantage in career meetings over the Japanese, having also won the previous two encounters, but Minatsu will have the home crowd rooting for her.

Reigning Commonwealth Games champion Kashyap had to work the least as his match lasted only two minutes before his Japanese opponent Takuma Ueda retired when the Indian was leading 3-2. He will next take on friend and compatriot Srikanth for a place in the men’s singles quarterfinals.

Third seed Srikanth, on the other hand, had an easy match against Scott Evans, beating the Irish 21-18, 21-15 in 34 minutes. In the only official match between the two Indians in the past, Kashyap came out on top in the final of the India Grand Prix Gold in January, beating Srikanth 23-21, 23-21.

Later, Prannoy beat Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki Vincent 23-21, 22-20 in 49 minutes and will next face South Korean Lee Dong Keun in their first ever career meet. Lee progressed to Round 2 after beating Sai 23-21, 21-10 in 52 minutes.

Danish Seventh seed Viktor Axelsen also took care of Mumbai’s Jayaram with a 21-10, 21-10 victory in less than half an hour. Women’s doubles specialists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa also had to bite the dust but not before giving a tough fight to China’s Zhao Yunlei and Zhong Qianxin. The eighth seeds won 22-20, 18-21, 21-13 in 54 minutes. In the other women’s doubles opener, Japanese top seeds Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi eased past Pradnya Gadre and N. Sikki Reddy 21-6, 21-17 in little more than half an hour.