Saina Nehwal suffered a first-round exit at the All England Championships, going down to Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in Birmingham on Thursday. Saina was outplayed comprehensively losing straight games 11-21, 8-21 to Yamaguchi in a match that lasted 28 minutes. Also Read - MC Mary Kom to Bajrang Punia: India's Olympic-Bound Athletes Welcome Tokyo 2020 Postponement
The loss will extend Saina’s wait of Olympic Qualification. Saina, currently ranked 20th in the BWF rankings with 46267 points, will need to enter the top 16 and she has time till April 28 to do so. However, the road to Olympics qualification may become tricky for Saina given the impact of the coronavirus on tournaments. Also Read - Saina Nehwal Shocked After Taiwanese Athlete at All England Tests Positive For COVID19
Events are being called off and although Saina still has the Swiss Open (March 17-22), India Open (March 24-29) and Malaysia Open (March 31-April 5) to make amends, she would need to get her form back soon. Also Read - Saina Nehwal Slams All England Badminton Open Timing: Should Not Have Happened During Coronavirus Pandemic
This was Saina’s third first-round exit this season, following eliminations at the Thailand Masters in January and Indonesia Masters. Prior to that, Saina also endured first-round exit at last year’s Denmark Open in October.
In men’s singles competition, shuttler Lakshya Sen prevailed over Hong Kong’s Cheuk Yiu Lee 17-21 21-8 21-17 in a gruelling first round, which lasted 59 minutes. Sen will now clash with second seed and world number seven from Denmark Viktor Axelsen for a place in the quarterfinals.
Sen is the only Indian male shuttler left in fray after P Kashyap retired from his first-round contest against Shesar Hiren Rhustavito. Kashyap’s match lasted just one minute, when trailing 0-3, he retired hurt.
The mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy advanced to the second round when top-seeded Chinese pair of Si Wei Zheng and Ya Qiong Huang retired while trailing 4-5. In women’s doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and Reddy will open their campaign against the British pair of Jenny Moore and Victoria Williams.