Dubai : Ace Indian shuttlers, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth, had a disappointing start to their campaign at the BWF Super Series Finals as they suffered straight-game defeats on the opening day of the prestigious event here on Wednesday. World No. 2 Saina seemed to struggle with her ankle injury as she went down 14-21 6-21 against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in a women’s singles match which lasted 35 minutes. The World Championship silver medallist will play World No. 1 Carolina Marin in another Group A match today. World No. 9 Kidambi Srikanth, who had reached the finals of Indonesia Masters Grand Prix Gold last week, suffered a 13-21, 13-21 loss against Japan’s Kento Momota in a men’s singles Group B match at the Hamdan Sports Complex. The 22-year-old Indian will next face Viktor Axelsen of Denmark today. Saina, who came into the match with a 4-0 head-to-head record against Okuhara, with two of this wins coming this year at Asian Championship and China Open, could not play her best game as her ankle injury restricted her on-court movement.
Okuhara zoomed to a 5-1 lead early on but Saina soon engaged her rival on long rallies using her tosses and drops and also judged the shuttle well in this conditions to claw back at 8-8. The Indian grabbed the lead when Okuhara hit wide but Okuhara caught the Indian at the forecourt and then with a smash moved into the interval with a slender 11-10 lead. Saina stumbled on a few unforced errors after the break which allowed Okuhara to lead 17-12. Saina grabbed two points before a net error and cross court drop at the left took the Japanese to the game point. She pocketed the game when Saina hit long again. The change of side didn’t change Saina’s fortune as Okuhara zoomed to a 11-3 lead in a jiffy. The ankle injury seemed to restrict Saina’s otherwise smooth movement as she struugle to reach for the low forehand and backhand returns.
Okuhara continued her good work after the breather even as Saina was left visibly frustrated with her game as she hit wide and long and found the net to allow the Japanese grab 10 of the next 14 points to shut the door on the Indian. In the men’s singles match, Srikanth looked a pale shadow of himself, while Momota produced a controlled aggressive game and fortified his defence to dominate the match completely. A tiny 3-1 lead initially was all Srikanth could manage as Momota zoomed to a 7-3 before entering the break at 11-8. The Japanese jumped to a 16-8 lead soon and continued to amass points without much trouble. A jump cross court drop took Momota to game point but he sent one wide next before closing the game comfortably to pocket the first game.
In the second game, Srikanth continued to search for his ‘A’ game as Momota lead 3-0. The defence of the Indian was not up to his best as he struggled to reach for shuttles at the forecourt and lost few points. He also misjudged the shuttle a few times, struggling in windy conditions as Momota lead 6-3. Momota constantly looked to trouble Srikanth with his steep and angled returns to enter the interval at 11-5. Srikanth tried to engage Momota in rallies and varied the pace but the Japanese had the answers most times as he used his accurate smashes and slices to finish the points and led 14-8 at one stage. Srikanth bagged a few points with his smashes after that but he soon hit the nets as Momota surged to match point at 20-12. The Japanese let one go at the baseline which was called in but he closed it next without much ado.