Kidambi Srikanth shocks Lee Zii Jia at the Japan Open, knocking Lakshya Sen and Saina Nehwal out
Wednesday's opening round of the Japan Open Super 750 competition saw Commonwealth Games winner Lakshya Sen suffer an unexpected loss, while Kidambi Srikanth stunned world number four Lee Zii Jia by winning in straight games.
Former world number one Srikanth overcame his early exit from the World Championships last week to defeat fifth seed Lee 22-20, 23-21 in the men's singles opening round. The match lasted 37 minutes. In four encounters, it was his first victory over Lee.
The bronze medalist from the 2021 global championships, 21-year-old Sen lost his first match to world number 21 Kenta Nishimoto of Japan after blowing a lead in the first game.
The world's 14th-ranked Srikanth, who frequently fails to win close games, put in a tough showing.
On Wednesday, Srikanth encountered a similar situation when he nearly let a 15-11 lead slip away by allowing Lee to score three game points. However, Srikanth managed to maintain composure and reel off five straight points to win the first game.
After switching sides, Lee proceeded to act with great purpose. He took an early 2-0 lead and a narrow one-point edge into halftime. He picked up the pace to get to 14-11, but things quickly changed when Srikanth turned the tables to take an 18-16 advantage and subsequently stood only two points back.
Lakshya, on the other hand, was by far the superior player in the opening game as he immediately built up a 7-2 lead and eventually increased it to 15-9 before winning it easily.
Lakshya also got off to a strong start in the second, jumping out to an 8-4 lead. However, she quickly lost the initiative as Nishimoto mounted an incredible comeback, winning nine of the next ten points to storm back into the game. As Nishimoto crushed Lakshya to maintain his lead and win the match in the third and final game, the tide entirely turned.
The first seed Akane Yamaguchi was no match for Saina Nehwal, who lost 9-21, 17-21 in 30 minutes.
The men's doubles team of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, who advanced to the World Championships quarterfinals and climbed nine spots to world number 26, fell to Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Won Ho of South Korea 21-19, 21-23, 15-21 after blowing a match point in the first game.
Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly, who won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, fell to Thailand's Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, the seventh seeds, 17-21, 18-21.
Juhi Dewangan and Venkat Gaurav Prasad, a mixed doubles team, were defeated by the top-seeded Chinese team of Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong in 23 minutes, losing 11-21 and 10-21.
Tuesday's match saw HS Prannoy move to the second round as Hong Kong's Ng ka Long Angus withdrew midway through.