PV Sindhu's struggles at the All England Open continued as she suffered a 16-21, 22-20, 18-21 defeat against South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun in the opening round in Birmingham on Wednesday. This is the fourth time that Sindhu has lost in the first round at the tournament. Sindhu looked to be heading towards the exit when she trailed 17-20 in the second game before winning five points on the trot to force a decider.
But that was as good as it got for the Indian as former World No. 2 Sung took control of the rallies in the final game. Sindhu was playing her first match in more than a month and the rust showed as she made a spate of uncharacteristic errors in the opening and deciding games.
Sindhu showed resilience once again in the third game, saving five match points from 20-13 down, but it was all too late as her sloppy play earlier in the game ended up costing her the match. Sindhu's semi-final finish in 2018 remains her best display at the tournament. The fifth-seeded Sindhu would have fancied her chances of making a deep run at the tournament in the absence of the reigning Olympic and World Champion Carolina Marin but a familiar foe in Sung put paid to her hopes.
Sindhu, who held an overall record of 8-6 against Sung, had lost to the Korean twice in their last three meetings.
"I think I should not have given her a big lead at the starting. It was too many points and it was difficult to cover," Sindhu said after the loss. "It was my bad luck probably as my mid-court smashes were going to net. I was just hitting out but overall it was good match and she played well. She has good anticipations and there were long rallies. I had trained enough but it was just not my day. Such matches keep happening and I have to take it as a challenge and come back stronger," she added.
Sameer Verma also exited in the first round after losing 21-16, 18-21, 14-21 to former world no. 1 Viktor Axelsen in the opening round. However, eighth seed Saina Nehwal advanced to the second round after a 21-17, 21-18 win against Kirsty Gilmour. She was joined in the round of 16 by seventh seed Kidambi Srikanth, who enjoyed a straightforward 21-13, 21-11 win against France's Brice Leverdez.
Earlier in men's singles, 2017 Singapore Open champion B Sai Praneeth defeated compatriot HS Prannoy 21-19, 21-19 to advance to the second round. Meanwhile, the women's doubles pair of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram lost 21-18, 12-21, 12-21 to Russia's Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Daveltova.
In the late matches, the men's doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy also suffered a 19-21, 21-16, 14-21 loss against the Chinese pair of Ou Xuanyi and Ren Xiangyu. Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy also exited the tournament after losing 21-16, 26-28, 16-21 to Japan's seventh-seeded combination of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto in round one.
India's doubles participation came to an end when Sikki and Pranaav Jerry Chopra lost 21-23, 17-21 to Chang Tak Ching and Ng Wing Yung in the first round of the mixed doubles event.