Defending champions Lakshya Sen and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty started their India Open campaigns with good wins while Saina Nehwal and Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand had to fight to reach the second round on Tuesday. However, PV Sindhu exited in the first round as she continued to struggle on her return from a five-month injury layoff.
An inspired Saina, who has been on a comeback ever since injuring her knee at the end of 2021, beat Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt 21-17, 12-21, 21-19 in just over an hour to end the day on a winning note for the Indian contingent at the upgraded Super 750 event.
Earlier, Lakshya had defeated compatriot HS Prannoy 21-14, 21-15 while Satwik and Chirag beat Scotland's Christopher and Matthew Grimley 21-13, 21-15. Sindhu went down 14-21, 20-22 against Thailand's Supanida Kathethong, who beat her in the last edition as well.
Lakshya stays strong in defence
In their second straight first-round meeting - with both locked 3-3 in head-to-head after new India No 1 Prannoy won last week at Malaysia Open - another close encounter was expected at home.
However, Lakshya's strong defence and relatively slower playing conditions meant that the defending champion didn't need a third game. In the first, he opened up a 11-3 lead and maintained a healthy advantage throughout, meeting Prannoy's attack with swift defence. Prannoy managed to keep pace at the start of the second game but the youngster opened up a two-point lead at the break and then kept things flat and fast to close out the match in 45 minutes.
He will now take on Denmark's Rasmus Gemke, who beat Kento Momota of Japan 21-15, 21-11 in the first match of the day.
"I am happy that I could begin from where I left last year. In Malaysia, I could not control the shuttle in the match against Prannoy but today the conditions were quite good and could control the shuttle quite well. Tomorrow, is a rest day and I hope to continue playing like this after that," Lakshya said after the match.
The 32-year-old Saina has had a tough few months with form and injury but her movement looked much better in Delhi. She began on a positive note and raced to 11-6 lead in the opening game before closing it out. However, Blichfeldt stayed in control throughout the second game and it looked like the momentum had shifted towards the Dane.
But Saina showed that she had enough and more in her reserves as she went on the offensive to counter her opponent's attacking strokes and came up with a deceptive net shot to close the match.
"I have been working on my movement and I was confident that I could win the match today.... I could see that my movement was good today and I was determined to fight for every point," said Saina after the match.
She will now face China's Chen Yufei in the next round. The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist defeated Michelle Li of Canada 21-19, 21-15
World No. 7 Sindhu, a former champion at the event, didn't look at her best having played just one match since her return from a five-month injury layoff.
In the first game, she struggled against the left-hander, who was precise in her returns and looked in more control in the rallies to take the opening game after opening up a big lead.
The former world champion fought hard in the second game as she moved from 12-17 to get a game point at 19-20. She had, in fact, left the court after the opponent's return was called out. But a video referral showed that the shuttle had actually landed on the line, handing her opponent a chance to close the match, and she did so after Sindhu went wide.
The women's doubles pair of Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly held their nerves to get the better of Margot Lambert and Anne Tran 22-20, 17-21, 21-18. They will now face Chinese sixth seeded Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu, who defeated the Indian pair of Ashna Roy and Haritha MH 21-4, 21-2.
N Sikki Reddy and her new women's doubles partner Shruti Mishra went down fighting 17-21 19-21 to Germany's Linda Efler and Isabel Lohau.
In men's doubles, Krishna Prasad G and Vishuvardhan Goud had to navigate a scare in the second game to beat Ruben Jille and Ties van der Lecq 21-11, 23-25, 21-9.
In mixed doubles, the only Indians in action - Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto - went down to Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek 21-11, 21-12.