Denmark Open: Kidambi Beats World No. 1; Saina, Prannoy Crash Out

Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth stunned reigning world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark to reach the semi-finals, while Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy lost in the quarter-finals of the Denmark Open World Superseries Premier in Odense on Friday.

Men's singles eighth seed Srikanth eliminated Rio Olympic bronze medallist and second seed Axelsen with a 14-21, 22-20, 21-7 in 56 minutes.

Kidambi Srikanth to PTIThis win is a confidence booster for me. I had lost to him at India Open, World Championship and Japan Open and really wanted to win. I took lot of time to get adjusted to the court but I was more patient and curbed my errors. He tried few things in the third game which didn’t materialise.

The 24-year-old from Guntur was the lone bright spot for India on the day as London Olympics bronze medallist Saina and Prannoy exited the tournament.

Kidambi’s Comeback

There was a lot of expectation from Axelsen, who was playing at his home. Egged by a vocal crowd, the local hero did make a rampaging start as he zoomed to a 6-1 lead early on and managed to earn a 11-6 advantage at the interval.

Srikanth grabbed six points on the trot but committed too many unforced errors. Axelsen showed ample display of his atheism as he returned twice from awkward positions to return the shuttle and eventually held seven game points, which he converted after Srikanth's smash went wide.

The second game started on an even-knell before Srikanth led 5-3 when Axelsen misjudged a shot at the baseline and found the net next. The Indian dominated the parallel game and reached 10-7 with Axelsen faltering with a net dribble.

However, Axelsen produced two powerful smashes which Srikanth failed to negotiate to lead 11-10. The Indian made two good judgements at the baseline and helped by his rival's net error held a 15-14 lead which soon evaporated.

Axelsen again grabbed a two point lead at 18-16 when Srikanth pushed the shuttle long. The Dane went to 19-17 with a net exchange. However, Srikanth managed to grab a 20-19 lead with a smash. A precise on the line smash by Srikanth and a net error by Axelsen finally took the match to decider.

In the third game, Axelsen surged to 3-1 lead before Srikanth erased the deficit with a jump smash and led 5-3 when his rival went wide and found the net. The Dane continued to commit unforced errors and one such wide return earned Srikanth a healthy 11-4 lead.

After the break, Axelsen simply couldn't keep the shuttle on the court and eventually handed the match to the Indian with two net errors.

Prannoy Struggles With Errors

In another men's singles match, Prannoy and Son Wan split the initial 10 points but then the Indian succumbed to a series of unforced errors as the Korean lead 11-5 at the interval.

His struggle with errors continued after the break as Son Wan moved to a 16-9 lead. Prannoy reached doubles figures when his rival sent the shuttle long and followed it up with a net error. However, the Korean eventually reached the game point when a diving Prannoy failed to retrieve a shot. He then sealed the game when the Indian hit the net next.

In the second game, Prannoy worked hard to build a 8-5 lead, following a series of rallies where the pace changed too frequently as each looked to outdo the other. The Indian extended it to 10-8 before unleashing a body smash to enter the break with three point lead.

However, Son Wan quickly leveled par with three quick points and took the lead with a measured return at his rival's forecourt. Prannoy bounced back at 16-16 before taking a 18-16 lead to let out a cry to pump himself up.

But he blew it with an error in return to serve and then Son Wan took the lead when Prannoy went wide. With the Indian's return going to net again, Son Wan had two match points and he sealed the issue when Prannoy went wide again.

Exhausted Nehwal Crashes

Exhausted after being forced to play a late night match on Thursday due to a power failure at the stadium, world number 12 Saina lost 10-21 13-21 to defending champion Akane Yamaguchi, ranked fifth, inside 30 minutes.

Saina NehwalI did not get enough time to rest, have never played a match at 2am. It has never happened. Never slept at 3am. I was sluggish. My movement was not good. But I should say Yamaguchi also played really well. She has got a good game, she has been consistent.

"Last time I had played her was at the Malaysia Open. She has obviously improved a lot in the last two years. She has been in top 5. I have to prepare more to play tough back-to- back matches. Anyways, I can't do much about it. Next is French Open," she added.

Saina, who had lost to Yamaguchi at the Malaysia Open this year, clearly looked tired and sluggish. Her movement was not up to the mark and she committed too many errors to allow Yamaguchi open up a 11-6 lead and could hardly do anything after the break as the Japanese walked away with the opening game.

In the second game, Saina tried to pump herself up and managed to move to 3-3 early on but Yamaguchi put the shuttle in positions which the Indian found difficult to retrieve as the Japanese led 7-4.

The rallies got faster but Saina did manage to turn the tables at 8-7 but Yamaguchi held the slender one point advantage at the break when the Indian hit long.

Yamaguchi stayed a step ahead of the Indian, who seemed a tad late in her strokes. The Japanese continued to accumulate points with her better court coverage and stroke play and seal the match without much difficulty.

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