Srikanth falls at French Open first hurdle

Indian shuttler loses his opening round tie to world number two Chou Tien Chen.

By Naveen Peter ·

India’s Srikanth Kidambi suffered another early exit as he bowed out of the 2019 French Open Super 750 event after a first-round loss to Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin in Paris on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Indian in the men’s circuit started well and took the opening game, but lost his ground as the encounter progressed, allowing Chen to come back and snatch the match from his grasp. The Indian lost 21-15, 7-21, 14-21.

Good start

Having failed to get past the opening round in his previous competition, Srikanth was determined to make amends and bring his best to the fore against the World No. 2 Chen.

Some juicy drop shots along with a few splendid returns saw Srikanth race to a 5-0 lead in the opening game within no time. But it was the unforced errors that kept pegging the Indian back while Chen stayed in the game.

But that didn’t matter much as Srikanth ensured that he kept the pressure on his opponent with his quality play to eke out an 11-10 lead at the mid-game interval.

Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen rallied from a game down to beat Kidambi Srikanth of India in the opening round of the 2019 French Open Super 750 event.

Post the break, Srikanth upped his game. Banking on his powerful drives and using the court to produce some delightful finishes, he took the opener 21-15.

Comeback time

With a game in his pocket, many thought Srikanth would go on to finally break his jinx against World No. 2 Chen. But the 29-year-old was in no mood to give in, as he stuck to his plan of recording a fine win.

While the first game was all about Srikanth taking the initiative and forcing his opponent into playing some rash shots, Chen was quick to learn from his mistakes and dug deep to prolong his rallies and turn the tide on his opponent.

Drawn into longer rallies, Srikanth was visibly uncomfortable and tried to force the issue with some deep-court jump smashes from tight angles. But to his dismay, the Indian failed to get the shuttle past the net time and again, with the tape being his biggest nemesis on the day.

India’s mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa too lost their opening round tie at the 2019 French Open Super 750 event.

Kashyap, Verma lose

Joining Srikanth on their way out of the competition were Parupalli Kashyap and Sameer Verma, who too lost their opening round matches at the 2019 French Open Super 750 event.

While Kashyap, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, was thoroughly outplayed by World No. 9 NG Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong 21-11, 21-9, Verma was made to rue his luck as he, like Srikanth, saw the match slip from his grasp. The 25-year-old Indian lost to World No. 13 Kenta Nishimoto of Japan 22-20, 18-21, 18-21.

Earlier, the mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa too bowed out of the competition after their opening-round loss to fourth seed Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yujung of South Korea 17-21, 18-21.

Nehwal advances

Meanwhile, there was some cheer for the Indian camp as the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal moved into the second round with a win over Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi.

In what was a closely fought battle, the eighth seed Nehwal prevailed 23-21, 21-17.

She will now face Line Kjærsfeldt of Denmark with a place in the quarterfinals up for the grabs for the winner.