Swiss Open 2021: Tepid Indian efficiency at Basel a motive to fret about Tokyo Olympics qualification
The early exits of Saina Nehwal, HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen did them no favours as they battle to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
It isn’t a lot the prize cash out there at comparatively decrease stage tournaments just like the just-concluded Swiss Open Tremendous 300 (which provided a pot of $140,000) that’s of significance to a lot of the top-25 worldwide badminton gamers because the factors which might be up for grabs, and which might decide qualification for the quadrennial Olympic Video games.
Gamers poised tantalisingly on the periphery of qualification, like India’s Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal (who have been each ranked twenty second on the Race to Tokyo roster earlier than the resumption of the battle, suspended in March final yr as a result of proliferation of the COVID-19 pandemic) are straining each nerve and sinew to barge into the highest 16 to realize computerized qualification.
Increased ranked gamers are striving to garner factors that might propel them greater up the pecking order, and guarantee them of higher seedings on the Olympics, in order that they keep away from their most fancied rivals within the earlier rounds. The factors on provide at Basel have been 7,000 for winners, 5,950 for the runners-up, 4,900 for shedding semi-finalists, 3,850 for shedding quarter-finalists, and a pair of,750 for individuals who misplaced within the Spherical of 16.
A number of elite shuttlers, together with the whole Chinese language and Japanese squads and a lot of the Indonesian topnotchers, gave the Swiss Open a large berth, however – bar the Chinese language, who will proceed to remain away as a result of grim COVID-19 state of affairs at residence – are more likely to be seen on the prestigious All England Tremendous 1000 championships that can kick off at Birmingham from 17 March. The All England, by the way, doesn’t determine within the checklist of qualification tournaments within the Race to Tokyo sequence.
When seen in opposition to the backdrop of the foregoing propositions and the lukewarm high quality of the opposition at Basel, the efficiency of the Indian hopefuls on this opening match of the truncated European circuit was reasonably lower than overwhelming. Not one of the Indians exceeded their anticipated efficiency, based mostly on their seedings; and a number of other fell in need of performing to their wonted potential.
World champion PV Sindhu was seeded second behind three-time former world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin, and duly made the ultimate with victories over Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan (whom she led 11-1 in profession conferences earlier than their quarter-final conflict) and Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt (in opposition to whom she held a 3-1 lead in head-to-heads). Her semi-final conquer Blichfeldt offered the Indian ace with candy revenge for her shock first-round loss on the Dane’s arms within the Thailand Open in January this yr.
Within the ultimate, although, Sindhu got here to grief in opposition to a vastly superior Marin, who completely outpaced and outplayed her for a runaway 21-12, 21-5 triumph. The lanky Indian matched the Spaniard stroke for stroke initially till 6-6, however couldn’t maintain tempo with the speedy southpaw when Marin stepped on the accelerator and comprehensively dominated the rallies, to document her ninth win over Sindhu in 14 conferences.
The 5,950 factors that the Indian pocketed for her runner-up place would enhance her tally to 76,704 factors as soon as the rankings desk is up to date, and transfer her into the sixth spot, forward of Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon (75,885 factors), who selected to offer the Swiss Open a miss. Marin’s 7,000 factors helped her to a complete of 83,210 factors, enabling her to leapfrog two locations to 3rd on the Race to Tokyo desk, and pushing the 2 Japanese, Nozomi Okuhara (82,676) and Akane Yamaguchi (78, 470), down a rung every.
For Saina Nehwal, the match at St. Jakobshalle proved a catastrophe, as she plumbed a brand new low, shedding her opening outing to unsung Thai, Phittayaporn Chaiwan, who’s simply out of the junior ranks. Chaiwan’s earlier identify was Pattarasuda, however she modified it after a temple go to to Phittayaporn, within the perception that it will carry her luck. Apparently, it did; and the Thai teenager additionally accounted for Korea’s just lately married Sung Ji Hyun within the second spherical earlier than succumbing reasonably meekly to Blichfeldt within the quarter-finals.
The primary-round exit, nevertheless, disadvantaged Saina of the factors she desperately wanted to enhance her twenty second place (with 41,847 factors), at a time when the erstwhile fifteenth and sixteenth ranked gamers, Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun (49,410) and Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong (49,176) have powered additional forward on the desk with 2,750 and 4,900 factors, respectively, for his or her performances on the Swiss Open.
The seventeenth ranked participant, Beiwen Zhang of the US (48,160), additionally picked up 3,850 factors for her shedding quarter-finalist spot, to maneuver past the 50,000-point mark, whereas nineteenth ranked Mia Blichfeldt (45,211) pocketed 4,900 factors for her semi-final putting, to additionally cross the 50,000-point barrier. It has made issues all of the extra robust for Saina.
Among the many males, Srikanth confirmed steadily enhancing type, so as to add 4,900 factors for his shedding semi-finalist displaying, to his erstwhile tally of 40,469 within the Race to Tokyo checklist, and attain 45,369 factors. The Indian, who was seeded fourth within the match, and was anticipated to make the semi-finals, had a attempting time within the opening spherical in opposition to compatriot and stable-mate, Sameer Verma and the second outing in opposition to Frenchman Thomas Rouxel, however then sailed easily previous Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen, to make the final 4.
There have been hopes that the Indian would enhance upon his 3-3 head-to-head document in opposition to Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, who has been in red-hot type since his win on the 2020 All England, and has misplaced just one match since his triumph in that competitors – in opposition to fellow-countryman Anders Antonsen within the World Tour finals in Bangkok just a few weeks again.
However Srikanth was all at sea in opposition to the tempo, steeply angled smashes and tight defence of the lanky Dane, and was a digital spectator for three-quarters of the match, as his forehand sideline defence merely didn’t work. It behooves to his credit score that he overturned a 3-11 deficit within the second sport, after a 12-21 loss within the first, to revive parity at 17-all, and stayed with Axelsen till 19-all. Two determined smashes, that went marginally out alongside the forehand sideline and on the Dane’s baseline, dashed Srikanth’s hopes and secured the sport for the champion at 21-19.
This was the fourth match in latest weeks that Srikanth has misplaced narrowly when his opponent has managed to stay his nostril forward on the ending tape. Within the World Tour finals in Bangkok, the Indian had misplaced at 21-15, 16-21, 18-21 in 77 minutes to 3rd seed and 2019 World Championship runner-up, Anders Antonsen of Denmark; was crushed at 21-19, 9-21, 19-21 after 78 minutes to Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese language Taipei; and misplaced at 21-12, 18-21, 19-21 in an hour and 5 minutes to Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Lengthy Angus.
In some way, Srikanth finds himself unable to get throughout the road in the case of the enterprise finish of a match – and it’s not for lack of bodily health. Maybe some psychological counselling could do the trick for the 27-year-old Guntur native, who’s slowly returning to the form of type that received him 4 Superseries titles in 2017, and made him essentially the most feared participant of that season.
Srikanth nonetheless has half a dozen tournaments to spice up his factors tally to a stage the place he would find yourself within the prime 16 within the Race to Tokyo checklist. Compatriot Sai Praneeth, who was within the thirteenth place with 51,527 factors earlier than the Swiss Open, did his qualification prospects no hurt by justifying his fifth seeding within the occasion, and shedding within the quarter-finals to Malaysian second seed, Lee Zii Jia, thus including 2,750 factors to his tally. If Sai maintains his thirteenth place, or no less than stays inside the prime 16, India might nicely have two representatives within the Tokyo Olympics males’s singles.
There was nothing a lot to jot down about within the first-round losses suffered by veteran Parupalli Kashyap (an abject 15-21, 10-21 defeat to Spaniard Pablo Abian), Lakshya Sen (who was all at sea in opposition to the sustained assault of Denmark’s Victor Svendsen, promoted from the reserves) and HS Prannoy (who misplaced a detailed three-gamer in opposition to Mark Caljouw of The Netherlands).
Sameer Verma’s elder brother, Sourabh, was crushed within the second spherical at 17-21, 14-21 by two-time former world junior champion, Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand, who additionally accounted for Ajay Jayaram within the quarter-finals by a 21-9, 21-6 scoreline. The gritty Jayaram had two spectacular victories in opposition to Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin and Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, however had nothing left within the tank in opposition to the speedy Vitidsarn, who had the excellence of constructing the ultimate, the place he was overwhelmed by the artistry and management of Axelsen.
Within the doubles, there was a wonderful displaying by the combined doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa, who upset the second seeded mixture of Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Widjaja of Indonesia at 21-18, 21-10 of their lung-opener, however have been narrowly crushed within the quarter-finals by Malaysians Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing at 21-18 within the decider of a match that would have gone both method.
Nonetheless, the second seeded males’s doubles pair of Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty didn’t justify their putting, and bowed out within the semi-finals to the eventual winners, Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, whom they’d crushed in 2019. Shetty had a very off-day, and made errors galore, inflicting his accomplice to additionally go the prodigal method of their one-sided 10-21, 17-21 loss to the Danes who defended brilliantly and have been in wonderful type within the competitors.
Nonetheless, the Indians are in little hazard of lacking out on the Olympics, as they’re method forward of their compatriots within the Race to Tokyo roster, and are assured of India’s quota spot within the males’s doubles draw. What they should do, nevertheless, is to enhance their consistency, and turn out to be extra aggressive, in order that they might be in rivalry for a medal on the 2021 Olympics.
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