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India Open: Axelsen tames Srikanth in opener

Source: PTI
January 18, 2023 22:07 IST
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Viktor Axelsen will next face China's Shi Yu Qi

IMAGE: Viktor Axelsen will face China's Shi Yu Qi in the second round. Photograph: BAI Media

A fighting Kidambi Srikanth couldn't sustain the pressure as he went down in straight games to Olympic and world champion Viktor Axelsen in his opening men's singles match at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open Super 750 tournament in New Delhi, on Wednesday.

Srikanth, a World Championship silver medallist, flattered to deceive as he squandered a 14-5 lead in the second game to go down 14-21, 19-21 to the world no. 1 Dane, leaving the cheering fans at the IG stadium disappointed.

World no. 39 Aakarshi Kashyap and world no. 34 Malvika Bansod also couldn't match their fancied rivals, USA's Beiwen Zhang and Thailand's Busanan Ongbamrung and bowed out after losing their respective matches.


While Akarshi lost 15-21, 12-21 to former champion Zhang, Malvika squandered an 11-8 lead in the opening game to eventually go down 17-21, 12-21 to world no. 12 Busanan.

With the crowd rooting for him, Srikanth, a former world no.1, made a good start as he dominated the rallies, extracting mistakes from Axelsen. The Indian tried to lunge his opponent forward, using his strokes to move the tall Dane.

He unleashed some sensational smashes to move to a 7-5 lead but an alert Axelsen caught up at 8-8 and then with a superb smash took a three-point lead at the break.

At 13-9, Axelsen committed a rare service error before another shot went to the net. Srikanth tried to set up the rallies but often erred in his finishing.

The Dane eventually sealed the opening game after the Indian smashed out twice.

Srikanth made an attacking start after the change of ends, putting his smashes to good use, to lead 5-1. Two tight smashes on either side helped the Indian to maintain his lead to 8-3 before he entered the break with a healthy seven-point advantage when Axelsen went to the net.

The Indian didn't let the intensity slip after resumption to lead 14-6 and it seemed he will be able to take it to the decider.

But Axelsen got back his bearing at the nick of time as the Indian suddenly committed a series of unforced errors to allow his rival to bring the equation down to 13-15.

Srikanth fluffed the lines, his taps went to the nets repeatedly as it was soon 17-16. Another net error helped Axelsen to draw parity at 18-18. Luck also seemed to have left the Indian as another return bounced off the tape and landed out.

Axelsen soon grabbed two match points and then produced a precise return on the front court to raise his hands in celebration.

"I played well overall but couldn't finish a few points," said Srikanth, the disappointment of not closing out the match, writ large on his face.

"Even in the first game, I had few tap-outs and smash-outs. In the second game as well, at 18-19, it touched the net and went out. It was a good match, but I made too many mistakes."

It was his second successive first-round exit following the Malaysia Open Super 1000.

Axelsen, who had retained the title in Kuala Lumpur last week, said he was lucky to win the match.

"I can't believe I managed to win the second game," the 29-year-old said after registering his seventh straight victory over his Indian opponent.

"I didn't feel good at all. Srikanth stepped up and it is really surprising, I won the second game. It is not easy to come from a hot country to a cold Delhi. Overall, physically I haven't recovered yet."

Axelsen will now face China's Shi Yu Qi in the second round.

In the day's other matches, second seed Lee Zii Jia and Denmark's Anders Antonsen were taken to the distance by their relatively unknown opponents while a visibly tired Kodai Naraoka of Japan fizzled out in three games against third seed Loh Kean Yew of Singapore.

Antonsen, who has been struggling with injuries, came from a game down to beat France's Toma Junior Popov 18-21, 21-19, 21-13 before Lee was made to work hard for a 20-22, 21-19, 21-12 win over Indonesia's Shesar Hiren Rhustavito.

In the women's singles, top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, second seed An Se-Young of South Korea and fourth seed He Bingjiao of China advanced to the second round without losing a game.

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Asian Games 2023

Asian Games 2023