World no.1 and second seeded Saina Nehwal of India had an easy passage to the second round of the Star Australian Open Superseries, when she brushed aside a challenge by world no.67 Cheah Lyddia Yi Yu of Malaysia. Saina’s compatriot and fourth men’s seed Kidambi Srikanth had a tough encounter with Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and it could only be decided in the thrilling third game. India’s women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa also reached the second round but it was curtains for three other Indians; Parupalli Kashyap, R M V Gurusaidutt and women’s singles contender PV Sindhu, all of whom made first round exits. In other notable first round matches, Rajiv Ouseph of England easily defeated 5-times Super-series Runner-up Kenichi Tago of Japan and Frenchman Brice Leverdez fought hard to beat Indonesian Tommy Sugiarto. Japanese rising star Nozomi Okuhara injured her leg in the opening game and crashed out in the first round against Canada’s Michelle Li in a first round women’s singles match.
Saina Nehwal is the defending champion in the tournament and she simply outclassed Cheah 21-12 21-10 to enter the last 16. The second seeded Saina will now take on China’s Sun Yu for a place in the quarterfinals. Kidambi Srikanth had a tough game on his hands as he faced Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark in the first round. The match began with Srikanth losing the first game 14-21. But the world no.4 Indian came back to level game scores to 1-1 by winning the second game at 21-8. Srikanth, however could not carry the momentum into the third game as the Dane played dominantly. At the crunch time, when world no.14 Vittinghus held four match points at 20-16, Srikanth was in deep trouble. Showing great poise, the Indian youngster made a confident comeback to not only erase all match points but force a victory at 22-20 in 53 minutes. Srikanth’s second round opponent is Chinese world no.10 Tian Houwei, who won his first round match against Hong Kong’s Ka Long Angus 21-9, 21-9.
The Indians, who made early exits on Wednesday were; P V Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap and RMV Gurusaidutt. World no.14 Sindhu lost after she fought bravely against no.8 seed Wang Yihan of China. After losing the first game 18-21, Sindhu came back strongly in the second to win 21-15 and forced a decider. The Indian continued fighting until Wang Yihan finished the third game 25-23. Gurusaidutt surprised everyone by taking the first game from the Chinese top seed Chen Long at 21-15. But the Indian’s game fizzled out over the next two games as Chen Long emerged victorious at 15-21, 21-9, 21-17. Parupalli Kashyap also lost against sixth seeded Chinese Wang Zhengming in a long-drawn match. Kashyap fought tooth-and-nail in the first game before yielding at 24-26 and then came back to win the second 21-18. The two players continued the momentum in the decider before the Chinese edged out Kashyap 22-20. Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa kept India’s women’s doubles hopes alive by winning against Netherlands’ Samantha Barning and Iris Tabeling 21-13 21-13. But Indian mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Pranav Jerry Chopra lost their first round match.
Elsewhere, England’s Rajiv Ouseph defeated Japan’s Kenichi Tago 21-11, 21-14 and Frenchman Brice Leverdez took his revenge for last year’s loss against Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia by winning at 7-21, 21-18, 21-14. Canadian woman Michelle Li defeated Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-17, 21-19. The Japanese played with an injury to her leg and couldn’t move around properly. Okuhara’s compatriot Akane Yamaguchi however entered the second round by beating Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong, 21-11 24-26 21-14, to earn a meeting with No.7 seed Sung Ji Hyun of Korea.
In mixed doubles, Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Joachim Fischer Nielsen scraped through the second round with a hard-fought 16-21, 23-21, 21-10 win over Indonesia’s Puspita Richi Dili/Riky Widianto. But another Indonesian mixed doubles pair of Gloria Emaneulle Widjaja/Edi Subaktiar defeated Korea’s Chang Ye Na / Yoo Yeon Seong 19-21, 21-19, 21-13. However three mixed doubles pairs from Korea reached the second round. In men’s doubles, Malaysian combo of Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong defeated Denmark’s Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen. It was the longest match of the day lasting 74 minutes before the Malaysians came through at 21-9, 18-21, 30-28. In the third game, the Danes had three match points and the Malaysians had six but Shem/Kiong closed it out on the seventh.