Bangkok: Star Indian shuttlers P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth fought their hearts out before suffering close defeats in their respective group ‘B’ openers at the USD 1.5 million HSBC BWF World Tour Finals here on Wednesday.
A week after a demoralising defeat at the Toyota Thailand Open quarterfinals, world champion Sindhu produced a much-improved performance but still lost to world number one Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan 21-19 12-21 17-21.
“It was a good match, there were no easy points. In the third game I came back and it was just one point difference at one stage. I broke my racket strings twice (during rallies) and that made a difference,” Sindhu said.
“It’s a tough group. I have to give 100 per cent.”
It was Sindhu’s 16th defeat to Tzu Ying in 21 meetings.
Former world number one Srikanth too squandered an opening game advantage, losing 21-15 16-21 18-21 to world number three Anders Antonsen of Denmark in a gruelling 77-minute contest.
“I can’t say I’m happy with the way I played today, because I was playing much better in training before I came here,” Srikanth said.
“I had my chances today, I could have won from 17-16 in the third. Main motto for me is to play as many matches as possible, because I haven’t been winning matches over the last two years. So, I really want to play matches with the top-eight players.”
Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who had won the prestigious title in 2018, will next play home favourite Ratchanok Intanon, who had handed her a humiliating defeat last week, while Srikanth, ranked 14th, will face fourth seed Wang Tzu Wei of Taiwan on Thursday.
In the women’s singles, Sindhu and Tzu Ying engaged in an enticing battle with the latter leading 5-3 early on before grabbing a 11-8 advantage at the interval as Sindhu lost a few points on the net.
Tzu Ying soon jumped to a 14-10 lead with Sindhu making an error in her judgement at backline and also the Taiwanese producing a backhand cross court return.
Sindhu drew parity at 16-16 with a run of points, highlighted by a crisp cross court slice and a backhand return.
Tzu Ying again moved ahead but two precise smashes helped the Indian make it 19-19 as she grabbed the game point with another precise return that kissed the backline.
Sindhu then played a cross court return at the net which her opponent couldn’t reach, gaining the upper hand in the match.
Tzu Ying zoomed to a 6-0 lead in the second game before two unforced errors from Sindhu handed an 11-4 advantage to her at the break. Tzu Ying soon moved to 19-9 before winning the second game with a cross court return.
In the decider, Tzu Ying again led 6-3 but she stumbled to defensive errors as Sindhu levelled the score with a smash.
However, the second seed Taiwanese held a 11-9 lead at the break. Sindhu managed to keep the two-point difference till 13-15 before a lucky net cord and a weak return at the net by Sindhu gave Tzu Ying a 17-13 lead.
Sindhu narrowed it to 17-19 before Tzu Ying sealed the contest with the Indian going to the net twice.
Making his fourth appearance at the season finale, Srikanth jumped to a 7-1 lead early on but a few unforced errors helped Antonsen make it 4-7.
The Danish player won a long 35-shot rally before Srikanth caught him off guard in the front court to gain a three-point advantage at the break.
Antonsen drew parity at 12-12 with a smash but Srikanth played a magical return to move to 14-13 and then a backhand flick took him to 16-13.
A couple of smashes helped Srikanth reach 19-13 and soon he grabbed five game points and sealed it with his rival going wide.
In the second game, Antonsen erased a 0-2 deficit to make it 5-2 with some superb shots from the front court. The Danish player gained a four-point advantage at the interval following Srikanth wide return.
Srikanth showed good front court skills to narrow it down to 15-16 before missing the line with his smash. The Indian lost a point at the net and then went wide as Antonsen unleashed a jump smash to grab four game points and converted it with an accurate shot at the backline.
In the third game, Srikanth was 11-9 up but he made too many unforced errors to allow Antonsen level par at 13-13.
After two sensational rallies, Antonsen reeled off four straight points to grab three match points. Srikanth saved one before hitting one long to lose the match.