INDIA OPEN 2011 – Local hero sent packing

Saina Nehwal suffered a major blow when she was ousted by Japan’s Ai Goto in the first round of her home event, the first ever Super Series held in Delhi, […]

Saina Nehwal suffered a major blow when she was ousted by Japan’s Ai Goto in the first round of her home event, the first ever Super Series held in Delhi, the Yonex Sunrise Badminton Championships. Peter Gade was close to losing while two young Indians made up for Saina’s loss.

Dev Sukumar (with Agencies).  Photos (BWF, archives/ Badmintonphoto)

There were ups and downs for locals in Delhi for the kick-off of the main draw in the India Open in Delhi.  World number four and top seed Saina Nehwal of India crashed out 17-21, 19-21 to Japan’s Ai Goto in the first round, but her compatriots Sourabh Verma and Guru Sai Dutt pulled off impressive wins to save the day for India.

Saina looked completely off-colour against her determined opponent and slumped to her knees after Goto slammed in the winning shot at the Siri Fort Complex.

The Indian superstar, 21, had beaten the Japanese player in three previous encounters and was tipped to win before a home crowd at the venue where she clinched the Commonwealth Games gold last year.

She caught me by surprise with her strong play. She retrieved everything I sent to her and she kept the shuttle low. She also was strong in her smashes which I didn’t expect,” Saina told local press. The 21-year-old ace, who was seeded top in the tournament, has also been troubled by an ankle injury for the past few months.

The [ankle] injury is not an excuse as I have been training and playing with it before. I just couldn’t find the answers to her play and I made too mistakes.

The Japanese victor, meanwhile, was all smiles for what could be a milestone in her career.

This is one of the most memorable wins of my career as I beat Saina,” said Goto. I was totally focused on winning today as I knew she was under tremendous pressure as expectations were high from her own fans. I also kept the shuttle low because she is stronger in the high balls and I wanted to move her around.

Goto next takes on the increasingly dangerous Gu Juan of Singapore who beat Maria Febe Kusumastuti of Indonesia 21-11, 21-11.

Verma makes a first name for himself

Earlier in the day, young shuttler Sourabh Verma created his own upset when he sent Athens Olympics bronze medallist Sony Dwi Kuncoro packing in straight games in the men’s singles first round.

The 20-year-old qualifier beat the former world number three Indonesian 21-18, 21-19 in a hard-fought 41-minute men’s singles match.  Currently ranked 37th, Sony had also won the silver and bronze in the World Championships – in Kuala Lumpur in 2007 and Hyderabad in 2009 – besides having racked up Super Series titles from Indonesia, Japan and the China Masters.

It is my biggest win. I wasn’t intimidated by his stature. I just wanted to give my best and see how things pan out and I am glad I could pull off the victory,” said Sourabh, who is playing the first Super Series of his career.

He will take on 7th-seeded Kenichi Tago of Japan in the second round on Thursday. The Madhya Pradesh lad has been training in the Gopichand Academy for the last two years and is among the talented group of young shuttlers.

I had been training at SAG (Special Area Games) but the training facilities were not that great. After I moved into the Gopichand academy for the Commonwealth Games camp, I decided to stay there ever since,” said Sourabh, who reached the semifinals of the National Championship in Rohtak.

Another young Ace from India was under the limelight when Gurusai Datt (photo) beat Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana in three games, winning 21-19 in the decider after over an hour of play.

Lee through, Gade saves 3 match points

Meanwhile, Ajay Jayaram too produced a gallant performance against world number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia before going down fighting 19-21, 18-21 in a 37-minute match.

It was my first match and I was taking things a little lightly, playing different strokes but I didn’t except him to play so well. I was trying a few things, taking a feel of the stadium. A few line calls went against me but in the end it was a fair and square match,” Lee said.

For Peter Gade (photo), it was another story as the Dane had to dig deep to beat Kazushi Yamada of Japan – the one who had upset Taufik Hidayat in the Yonex All England a few months ago. The Dane saved no fewer than three match points in the second game, after he found himself trailing 17-20.

Experience won the day for me as I was staring defeat at 17-20 in the second game,” said the Dane.  “I could see that he was tiring fast and at my end, I kept the discipline and made sure there were no mistakes in my game. I could have gone out in the first round but I am happy that I will be playing tomorrow.

I didn’t play well today and Yamada, after beating Taufik at the All England, could have thought that there was nothing to lose against me. This is the first time I am playing in this venue and I found it hard to adapt to the conditions and it is even harder when you are under pressure to catch up and on top of that, not playing well either.

All results HERE

About Dev Sukumar