In one of the biggest upsets for the Indian Olympic contingent, medal hope Saina Nehwal crashed out of the Rio Games but Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu kept India afloat by advancing to the pre-quarterfinals of the badminton event.
The London Olympics bronze medallist and world no. 5, Saina had inflammation on her right knee and lost 18-21 19-21 to World No. 61 Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in her second Group G match that lasted 39 minutes at the pavillion 4 Riocentre.
In Group M women's singles, Sindhu, however, managed to eke out a 19-21 21-15 21-17 win over Glasgow Commonwealth Games champion Li Michelle in a gruelling 72-minute match.
In men's singles, Srikanth, a former World No 3, defeated Sweden's Henri Hurskainen 21-6 21-18 in the second match of group H that lasted 34 minutes here to enter the knockout stage.
The 21-year-old Sindhu played a lot of drops at the backhand of Li but the Canada shuttler was up for it. After a tough fight, Sindhu managed a slender 11-10 lead at the break in the opening game. After the breather, the duo continued to fight for each point before a onrushing Li pushed the shuttle at the backcourt of Sindhu to pocket the first game.
The second game was no different as both the shuttler fought tooth and nail before Sindhu entered the break at 11-8. The Indian continued her good run and surged to a 18-13 lead and then reached the game point with a powerful smash. She eventually roared back to contest when Li found the net.
After lagging 1-3 in the decider, Sindhu turned the tables at 6-5. A couple of taps from Li going to the net meant Sindhu led 8-5. A deceptive net play and a judgement error by Li took Sindhu to 10-5, before the Indian entered the interval with a 11-7 lead after Li didn't have answer to her powerful smash.
After the change in ends, Sindhu committed a couple of unforced errors and Li too produced a down the line smash to narrow it down to 10-11.
Sindhu once again distanced herself from Li, reaching 16-11 after dominating the fast-paced rallies. With Li hitting wide and at the net, Sindhu reached 18-11. Li continued to fight and grabbed a few points before Sindhu managed to reach the match point at 20-16 after a deceptive tap at the nets.
Sindhu lost a point before smashing her way to the pre-quarterfinals.
Feature image source: AFP