Image Credits: @BAI
Former champion Saina Nehwal, youngster Malvika Bansod and Aakarshi Kashyap and men's singles contender HS Prannoy registered convincing victories to reach the second round of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open, which is part of the HSBC BWF World Tour 500 tournament series, at the KD Jadhav Indoor hall on Wednesday.
Saina advanced after Czech Republic's Tereza Svabikova retired at the start of the second game with the Indian leading 22-20, 1-0 while Bansod and Kashyap defeated their opening round opponents in straight games.
Bansod got the better of Samiya Imad Farooqui 21-18, 21-9 after Kashyap had packed off Anura Prabhudesai 21-14, 21-14 in the opening round.
In men's singles first round matches, Prannoy Spaniard Pablo Abian 21-14, 21-7 while Mithun Manjunath got the better of France's Arnaud Merkle 21-16, 15-21, 21-10.
The main attraction of the second day's play was obviously how fourth seed Saina would perform against Svabikova as she was returning from an injury lay-off.
Saina began well as she raced to a 7-2 lead and then consolidated her position at 16-10 before her tentative movement on the forecourt meant that Svabikova could start controlling the rallies and the world No. 142 won eight of the next nine points to take the lead for the first time in the game.
She then earned her first game point and it looked like Saina was feeling the heat. But the Indian used her experience to level scores with a deft net play and then won the next two points to pocket the game.
Just when the match was nicely warming up, Svabikova suffered a back injury on the very first point of the second game and retired as she could not even stand on her feet and had to be stretchered out.
While Saina felt sad for Svabikova, she was happy to get another match to play on Thursday as she is also looking to find her rhythm after multiple issues with her right knee forced her to pull out of the World Championships last month.
"For me match practice is lacking... She was giving me good fight but unfortunately she got injured and had to give up," said Saina, who started training only over a week ago and believes she needs more time to be fuly match fit.
She will now face compatriot Malvika Bansod in the second round.
Bansod, who recently won the All India Senior ranking meet in Hyderabad, struggled to take control of the rallies in the opening game against Farooqui, who ran her close till the first mid-game interval. But just when it looked like the match could go down the wire, the left-handed Nagpur girl started to become more aggressive and bagged the first game. The second game was then a cakewalk.
Later in the day, Abian managed to open up a 6-2 lead against Prannoy before the Indian started raining his down the line smashes and controlled the net exchanges brilliantly to overcome the Spaniard in just 33 minutes.
He will next face Mithun, who was made to work hard by Merkle.
Mithun needed time to get used to Merkle's style of play in the opening game but his willingness to play long rallies allowed him to get into a rhythm and take control.
However, the Frenchman wasn't going to go down without putting up a fight and started the second game with much more attacking intent. That allowed him to race to a 10-5 lead. Mithun did claw his way back and the game went neck and neck till 12-12 before Merkle clinched six straight points to force the decider.
Mithun clearly had more gas in his tank in the decider and proved enough for him to advance to the second round after spending an hour and five minutes on the court.