Thailand Open: PV Sindhu ousted in first round, Kiran George wins
Saina Nehwal won her first round in women's singles while favourites Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty entered the men's doubles second round
It's been a topsy-turvy year for PV Sindhu. The Indian badminton queen returned to the circuit after a seven-month injury break with three successive first round exits on the BWF World Tour. The next tournament – Swiss Open – saw her improve a shade with a second-round exit.
Amid the disappointing results, she split with her Korean coach Park Ta-sang who guided her to the Tokyo Olympics bronze. Things started looking better for the 27-year-old who reached her first final since the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, losing the summit clash in Spain Masters. Far from her best, she fought hard to reach the Malaysia Masters semis last week.
Just when it looked like Sindhu was getting back her rhythm, the double Olympic medallist suffered her fourth first round exit of the season on Wednesday, losing to Canada's Michelle Li 8-21, 21-18, 18-21 in the $420,000 Thailand Open in Bangkok, in just over an hour at the Indoor Stadium Huamark.
It was only Sindhu’s third loss to the Canadian in 12 meetings – first since 2014. The world No.13 will hope to fare better in next week's Singapore Open, where she will be defending her crown.
Former world No. 1 Saina Nehwal won her first match since January, beating Canadian qualifier Wen Yu Zhang 21-13, 21-7. The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist faces an uphill task next up against Chinese third seed He Bingjiao.
Malvika Bansod lost 17-21, 14-21 to compatriot Ashmita Chaliha, who next plays three-time former world champion Carolina Marin of Spain.
Kiran springs a surprise
Kiran George sprang the day's biggest surprise when the qualifier stunned Chinese third seed and former All England champion Shi Yuqi 21-18, 22-20 in 47 minutes. A product of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in Bengaluru, Kiran is the son of former national champion George Thomas. Mother Preetha and brother Arun also have played badminton at the national level.
The 23-year-old, who won the Odisha Open last year, will next face China’s Weng Hongyang, who lost the Malaysia Masters final to HS Prannoy on Sunday. Weng beat former world No.1 Kidambi Srikanth 21-8, 16-21, 21-14.
Lakshya Sen beat Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei 21-23, 21-15, 21-15 while Priyanshu Rajawat, Mithun Manjunath, Sameer Verma and B Sai Praneeth lost their openers.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty returned to the tournament which started their ascendency in men’s doubles in 2019. It was in Bangkok that they first won a title at the level of Super 500 or higher. They are now the world No. 4 pair.
Top seeds in Bangkok, Rankireddy and Shetty, who have already been crowned at the Swiss Open and are Asian champions, won 21-13, 18-21, 21-17 in less than an hour against Danish qualifiers Rasmus Kjaer and Frederik Sogaard. They take Indonesia's Muhammad Shohibul Fikri and Maulana Bagas next.
It was the end of the road for K Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam in women’s doubles. They lost 11-21, 6-21 to South Korean third seeds Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee.
- Saina Nehwal