Dongguan: Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was the only bright spot in what turned out to be a dismal day for the Indian badminton team as it crashed out of the Sudirman Cup after a 4-1 loss to three-time champion Korea in a Group 1D tie here on Wednesday.
World No. 2 Saina produced a determined performance to edge out former world No. 5 Bae Yeon Ju 22-20, 17-21, 21-13 in the women’s singles but no other Indian could outwit the Koreans.
India was pegged back 1-0 after the men’s doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar went down 10-21, 19-21 to the world No. 8 combination of Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang. Saina then brought India back into the contest but once P. Kashyap’s gritty fight against world No. 5 Son Wan Ho ended with a 21-13, 14-21, 13-21 loss, the writing was on the wall for India.
The women’s doubles pair of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa lost 21-18, 12-21, 12-21 to Chang Ye Na and Jung Kyung Eun while the mixed doubles pair of Manu Attri and N. Sikki Reddy went down 12-21, 20-22 to Kim Ha Na and Ko Sung Hyun in the final tie.
India lost to Malaysia 3-2 in its opening tie on Monday.
Korea fielded Ju Bae ahead of world No. 7 Sung Ji Hyun in the women’s singles against Saina probably because of her better record against the Indian and the ploy seemed to work initially.
Bae troubled Saina to enter the break with an 11-9 advantage. The Indian, however, kept breathing down her neck and eventually pocketed the game by winning four straight points after being down 18-20. In the second game, Saina managed a slender 11-10 lead at the interval but Bae started dominating the rallies and after an intense battle, the Korean broke off at 14-14 to roar back into the contest with a six-point burst.
Saina was at her aggressive best in the decider as she dished out a game which Bae could not negotiate. She sealed the match comfortably to bring India on an even keel.
Kashyap was then given the responsibility of taming Son, whom he had defeated in straight games at the Singapore Open last month. Kashyap led 4-1 initially but Son twice grabbed the lead at 8-6 and 12-10. The Indian, however, fought back to clinch the opening game to conjure up hopes of a win.
But Son moved ahead in the second game at 10-7 and even though Kashyap clawed back with three points, the Korean bounced back.
In the decider, Kashyap failed to curb his errors and lost quite a few points hitting wide and long. He also rushed into a few shots to see Son holding an 11-8 advantage and then zooming ahead 17-12.
A miscued shot from Kashyap took Son to 20-13 before the Korean sealed the match with a powerful smash to make it 2-1 in favour of his team.
Up next, Jwala and Ashwini produced a gritty performance and engaged in a fierce battle with Chang and Jung to move neck and neck for most part of the first game. While Jwala troubled the opponents with sharp-angled returns, Ashwini produced some superb smashes from the back of the court to wrest the first game.
The result: Korea 4 bt India 1 (Kim Gi Jung & Kim Sa Rang bt Pranaav Jerry Chopra & Akshay Dewalkar 21-10, 21-19; Bae Yeon Ju lost to Saina Nehwal 20-22, 21-17, 13-21; Son Wan Ho bt P. Kashyap 13-21, 21-14, 21-13; Chang Ye Na & Jung Kyung Eun bt G. Jwala & Ashwini Ponnappa 18-21, 21-12, 21-12; Kim Ha Na & Ko Sung Hyun bt Manu Attri & N. Sikki Reddy 21-12, 22-20).