Badminton

Saina Nehwal falls in opening round at Toyota Thailand Open

Saina Nehwal’s forehand shots let her down on the day while Parupalli Kashyap retired from the Thailand Open with an unknown injury.

By Rahul Venkat ·

Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal fell in the first round at the Toyota Thailand Open on Tuesday.

Nehwal lost 21-17, 21-8 to local favourite and old rival Ratchanok Intanon.

It was a second-consecutive loss for Saina Nehwal as she had earlier fallen to Busanan Ongbhamrungphan in the second round at the Yonex Thailand Open.

As was the case last week, Saina Nehwal began slow as the fourth-seeded Intanon took an early 5-0 lead before the Indian won her first point.

Nehwal won four points on the bounce to come back into the game then but the experienced Intanon kept her at bay with her superior court coverage and went into the break leading 11-7.

The London 2012 bronze medallist seemed to be stuck to the middle of the court as Intanon gamely dictated the play.

There were a few of the trademark Saina Nehwal deceptive forehands but they did not come off too often as Intanon wrapped up the first game soon.

The Thai player was on the offensive again in the second game but Nehwal was more mobile on court as she went toe-to-toe with Intanon early on.

However, the Indian badminton player was struggling to keep her shuttles in as a number of unforced errors allowed Intanon to take an 11-5 lead in the mid-game break.

Saina Nehwal was unable to correct her long shots – even sending a serve wide – as Intanon calmly placed her shuttles in and won the match when the Indian, as was the case for most of the game, sent a forehand wide.

Meanwhile, Saina Nehwal’s husband Parupalli Kashyap’s injury woes continued as he retired for a second-consecutive tournament.

Kashyap who was up against Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, played the first three points before pulling up with an unknown injury, giving Gemke an easy passage into the second round of the Thailand Open.

Verma upsets Jia

India’s Sameer Verma put in a gritty performance in his first-round match against Malaysian eighth seed Lee Zii Jia to beat him 18-21, 27-25, 21-19.

Verma was leading for much of the first game before getting stuck on 17 points and allowed Jia to win a slew of points to take the opening game.

He refused to give up though, battling hard with Jia in the second game and stretching it long. Neither player was ready to concede but Verma eventually strung together two consecutive points to take the game 27-25.

The effort had taken a lot out of both players but Verma dealt with it better, as he raced into an early 8-4 lead in the deciding game.

However, Jia used all his reserves to fight back and denied Verma three match points at 20-19 before the Indian dug deep and challenged for the last point to take a defining win.

In another energy-sapping encounter, the doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy knocked out compatriots Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy 22-20, 28-26 in the opening round.

Satwik-Chirag, Thailand Open champions in 2019, trailed for large parts in both games but bounced back admirably each time, as their superior on-court chemistry helped them grind out a tough win.

It was a second win of the day for Satwiksairaj Rankireddy as he also made progress in the mixed doubles with Ashwini Ponnappa.

For play-by-play highlights of the Indian contingent, visit our live blog of the Toyota Thailand Open.

Lead Photo: Badmintonphoto - Courtesy of BWF