Badminton medal hopefuls Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu led the country’s charge in dominant fashion but most of the remaining pack fell by the wayside at the 17th Asian Games here on Wednesday.
While sixth seed Saina brushed aside Chinese Macau’s U Teng Lok 21-10, 21-8 in 26 minutes, eighth-seeded Sindhu demolished Kit Leng Wong, also of Macau, 21-7, 21-13 in just 19 minutes in their respective round of 32 encounters. The women’s doubles pair of Pradnya Gadre and Sikki Reddy, who won their last-32 match over Sichhya Shrestha and Punam Gurung of Nepal 21-6, 21-4 earlier in the day, couldn’t reproduce the same form later in the evening, their sloppiness costing them the last-16 tie 16-21, 21-19, 14-21 against Japan’s Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiwa.
There was mixed news for India in the men’s doubles category with Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri crushing Nasheeu Sharafudden and Mohamed Sarim of Maldives 21-7, 21-7 but the duo of Akshay Dewalker and Pranaav Chopra went down 10-21, 15-21 to the Chinese combo of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng. Saina’s match against Teng was a walk in the park at the Gyeyang Stadium. Making the best use of a weaker opponent ahead of a much-anticipated quarterfinal clash with second seed Yihan Wang, Saina totally dominated Teng. The smashes flowed, the net play clicked, her rhythm appeared to be back as Saina, coming into the continental bash following a three-week stint with Vimal Kumar, looked sharp and focused.
Speaking about her potential match with Wang against whom she has registered just one win in nine attempts, Saina felt the contest will be an acid test for her. “She has beaten me eight times and the record is there for everyone to see. She is a very dangerous player with strong smashes and deceptive angles. “She also plays very deep from the court. No doubt it is going to my biggest match at this Asian Games. I’ve been working on my movements for the last three weeks and I’m beginning to feel good about my game. I do have some plans for her and hope to implement them successfully.”
Sindhu too made a bright start to her campaign, dismissing her opponent with utter disdain. She faced hardly any problems in her short stay on court, conserving her energy for a tricky clash with Indonesia’s Bellaetrix Manupatty and possibly a quarterfinal date with World No 1 Li Xuerei.
“Bellaetrix can be dangerous on her day. I’ve been working hard for the Asian Games and confident of winning the match,” Sindhu said.
When asked about her potential meeting with favourite Xuerui in the quarterfinals, the World No 10 said she is not thinking too far ahead. “Let me win the next game first! I’m just taken it match my match. I don’t want to think about it when I’m not there yet.”
Results (Indians only): Men’s doubles: Round of 32: Cai Yun/ Fu Haifeng (Chn) bt Akshay Dewalker/ Pranaav Chopra (Ind) 21-10, 21-15; Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri bt Nasheeu Sharafudden/ Mohamed Sarim (Mdv) 21-7, 21-7. Women’s singles: Round of 32: 6-Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt U Teng Lok (Mac) 21-10, 21-8; PV Sindhu (Ind) bt Kit Leng Wong (Mac) 21-7, 21-13. Women’s doubles: Round of 16: Miyuki Maeda/ Reika Kakiwa (Jpn) bt Pradnya Gadre/ Sikki Reddy (Ind) 21-16, 19-21, 21-14. Round of 32: Pradnya G/ Sikki R bt Sichhya Shrestha/ Punam Gurung (Nep) 21-6, 21-4.