Former champion PV Sindhu’s wretched run continued as she bowed out of the World Championships, but HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen produced commanding performances to enter the third round in men’s singles, here on Tuesday.
The most successful Indian at World Championships with five medals, Sindhu lacked any sting in her attack and went down tamely 14-21, 14-21 to old nemesis Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, a 2017 gold medallist and silver winner in 2019.
It is the first time in her career that Sindhu, seeded 16th, has failed to reach the quarterfinals at the prestigious tournament.
In men’s singles, world No 9 Prannoy produced a masterclass as he tamed Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo 21-9, 21-14 to set up a clash with 2021 champion, Loh Kean Yew of Singapore.
Earlier, Sen, a bronze medallist at the 2021 edition, prevailed 21-11 21-12 over the world No 51 Korean Jeon Hyeok Jin.
The Indian, thus, settled his score against the Korean, who had defeated him in their only meeting at the Asia Team Championship in 2022.
The 11th seeded Indian is likely to face third seeded Kunlavut Vitidsarn from Thailand in the next round.
Sen has a 4-5 head-to-head count against Vitidsarn, whom he had defeated on way to Canada Open Super 500 title.
Sen was alert and took the initiatives during the rallies, showing his retrieval skills, speed and shot selection to dominate the proceedings.
The Indian lead 5-1 and slowly kept extending the gap against a struggling Jeon, who lacked the finishing punch during the fast-paced rallies.
Sen entered the interval with 11-6 lead and kept things under a firm grip even after resumption to quickly move to 18-11 before sealing the first game with three straight points.
In the second game, Sen opened up a 4-1 lead before extending it to 10-5 with a whipping forehand return. Another straight jump smash helped the Indian make it 11-5 at the break.
Sen continued to construct his points and got behind the shuttle early to produce clean winners to grab eight match points and converted it in his second attempt.
In the other men’s singles match, Prannoy used variations to keep up the attack from the back. He used lot of angled returns to move to 8-4 after 4-4 initial duel. In a battle of wits, Prannoy looked in control and was quick to pounce on anything near the net.
The Indian showed great anticipation and composure to gallop to 18-8 with Wardoyo making too many mistakes. A forehand going to the net gave 11 game points to Prannoy and he sealed it without much ado.
Prannoy unleashed perfect shots to completely dictate the rallies. Hordoyo tried to turned it around in the second game and even had a 5-4 lead but Prannoy remained composed, slowly moving ahead to grab a 11-7 lead at the break.
Wardoyo managed to claw back at 13-13 but Prannoy once again nosed ahead to 16-13 with a forehand cross court shot and a smash. The Indian was in sublime touch as he read his opponent well and used his array of shots to set up the points.
Eventually, a lucky net chord gave Prannpy six match points and he sealed it when his opponent went to net.
In women’s singles, Sindhu and Okuhara, best known for their marathon 110-minute-long 2017 World Championships final in Glasgow, have always produced engaging contests but the second round match at the Royal Arena turned out to be a lop-sided contest.
The duo has been troubled by injuries in the last 12 months and had missed the last edition. Sindhu came into the match with a 10-8 cushion but her game lacked the attacking prowess.
Facing off after three years in slow conditions, both the players went for high tosses and clears, looking to draw errors from the other but it was the former world number one Okuhara, who came up trumps with her precision.
After an initial duel of 6-6, Okuhara managed to grab three points and enter the break with a two-point lead.
The Japanese made it 16-12 after pouncing on a weak return at the net. The Indian continued to go wide and long as Okuhara moved to 19-12 with a precise cross court return.
Another shot going wide from Sindhu gave seven game points to Okuhara, who converted after the Indian went wide again.
The change of sides saw a shift of momentum with Sindhu racing to a 9-0 lead following a series of unforced errors from Okuhara.
Okuhara, however, slowly started to dominate the rallies and reeled off five straight points with few good placements before making it 9-10.
A cross court shot helped Sindhu to gain a two-point advantage at the interval.
Okuhara started catching her rival at the front court and grabbed six points from 10-12 to turn the tables on the Indian.
At 13-16, Sindhu unleashed a trademark cross court smash to let out a cry but she couldn’t control her mistakes and eventually gave six match points to Okuhara, who sealed the contest after the Indian went long again.
A disappointed Sindhu said she needs to work on her game comeback stronger in future tournaments.
“I really need to work hard on my mental and physical fitness. I know such loses make you feel really bad but it is part and parcel of game and life. But it is important for me to come back stronger for the next championships,” she said.
“We are both playing after a log time. She is coming back from an injury and I too came back from an injury. So there is a similarity there. But today, I felt it wasn’t my game. I gave away the match in the second game.”