India’s top shuttler, who improved upon her record in this tournament by winning the first round (she lost in the first-round last year), succumbed to lower-ranked Bae Youn Joo of South Korea this time around. The world No. 5 lost 19-21, 10-21 to the Korean girl in exactly 39 minutes.
As her compatriots fought gamely and moved into the quarterfinals, Saina managed to find the net with disconcerting regularity. She was leading 19-16 in the first game and looked sure to wrap it up but suddenly something snapped. Bae collected the points offered to her on a platter and forge ahead by clinching the game.
In the second, Saina was sloppier. At one stage, she lost her serve by hitting it long and the next two points she lost by failing to clear the net. Not a nice sight to watch for sure. Saina’s press meet was even shorter. She came all shaken and managed to say, “I played badly, don’t really know what happened”, nodded her head in despair and walked away.
Meanwhile, her compatriots, Ajay Jayaram and Parupalli Kashyap, playing on adjacent courts and chasing the same London dream, suffered contrasting fortunes early in the evening.
Jayaram had the tougher job as World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is in no mood to relent. The Indonesian is here to check on his fitness and of course to defend the title. What Jayaram did was stretch Wei to the hilt and even took a game off the Malaysian. But it was not good enough as Wei kept his composure and took the third game of the match in intimidating fashion. Jayaram simply had no answer to the aggression. The final score read 21-16, 15-21 and 21-5.
“I lost focus in the last game and Lee really lifted his game a few notches,” Jayaram said later.
Kashyap had other intentions. He lost the first game against Thailand’s Bonsak Poonsana but staged a remarkable comeback to win 15-21, 21-14, 22-20.
The Indian’s rearguard action was epitomized in the 19th point when Kashyap, by his own admission, “tapped the shuttle and didn’t even know where it went”. The return from Ponsana was high and the smash not only earned Kashyap the point but also gave him a huge boost that saw him grab the next three points. His expansive celebration which included collapsing on the court showed relief and hope that he will have the chance to fight another day.
Now, Kashyap is up against World No. 5 Chen Jin of China in the quarterfinals on Friday. If he can manage an encore, the Olympic ticket will be his. Else, Jayaram will head for London.
Wei is all confidence
Wei never fails to say “See you tomorrow” with a smile after every post-match press meet, which is in a way a telling manifestation of his confidence. That he dropped a game against Jayaram is mere aberration. It is not going to affect the Malaysian as he was absolutely flawless in the deciding game. “I have not fully recovered but I am slowly reaching there. I am still afraid and careful when I am going for the smash,” said Lee, referring to his shoulder injury that he is recovering from.
Prequarters results (Indians)
Women’s singles: Saina Nehwal lost to Bae Youn Joo 19-21, 10-21; PV Sindhu bt Ji Hyun Sung (8) 21-17, 22-20
Women’s doubles: Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponappa bt Vita Marissa/Nadya Melati 16-21, 21-15, 21-17
Men’s doubles: Rupesh Kumar/Sanave Thomas bt Kim Jung Kim/Sa Rang Kim 21-18, 18-21, 21-19.
Men’s singles: Ajay Jayaram lost to Lee Chong Wei 16-21, 21-15, 5-21; P Kashyap bt Boonsak Ponsana 15-21, 21-14, 22-2