It was deja vu for Lakshya Sen at the India Open. And not the good kind. He’d have come in hoping for a repeat of the 2022 season, where he went on to win the title. Instead, it was a reminder of 2023 where he lost in the second round. That day last year, he lost in the second round after taking the lead in the match against Rasmus Gemke of Denmark. In the decider, he started poorly and trailed 1-8, never recovering from that. This year, he lost in the opening round against his good friend Priyanshu Rajawat. Once again in the decider, he trailed 1-9, and that made all the difference in the end.
“The start of the decider could have been much better,” Lakshya said afterward, much as he had done a year back. “Credit to him, but a bunch of unforced errors from me. I think consistently playing my natural game (is where I am struggling at the moment), giving away too many loose points. I do come with a game-plan and to an extent, able to play to that. To do that over three games, I still have to work a lot on being patient and waiting for right chances to attack.”
In an otherwise dejected post-match interview, Lakshya managed to finish with a smile when asked how hard it was to make up for the deficit in the final game. “Very difficult of course, I lost the match,” he quipped. But Lakshya knows that yet another first-round exit is going to make his quest to reach Paris all the more difficult.
But, on the flipside, it was a memorable win for Priyanshu as fought back from a game down to defeat Lakshya 16-21, 21-16, 21-13.
The Madhya Pradesh-born shuttler had lost their only previous meeting on the international circuit, going down 22-24 at the Japan Open 2023 in the decider. It didn’t irk him because he had played well, but the joy was evident as he spoke to the media after this win, marking somewhat of a return to form.
“Today marked my first good game in quite a while, especially after the break I took due to my back injury,” Priyanshu said. “Lakshya is a very good friend of mine but it was important for me to win this match against him and progress to the next round. I stuck to my natural playing style throughout and despite losing the first game, I was determined not to let go of the second and third games at any cost. I am looking forward to the next game against HS Prannoy and want to give my 100% to win.”
Prannoy stepped out onto the court early morning on a cold Tuesday in Delhi, he came out red hot to overcome the always tricky former world No 2 Chou Tien Chen of Taiwan in straight games to seal his place in the second round.
In their last 7 meetings, Prannoy and Chou have played four three-game contests where they have battled it hard for more than an hour. There are rarely easy matches between them, but Prannoy started in fifth gear to race through the opening game. Knowing what was potentially on the cards for the remainder of the match, he didn’t take his foot off the pedal. But even when things got tighter in Game 2 where Prannoy trailed 8-14, he kept fighting and made the necessary tweaks to emerge on top in straight games 21-6, 21-19.
In women’s doubles, Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand put up a good fight to take the lead and had their moments in the backend of the match too, but went down 21-18, 14-21, and 13-21 defeat against Chiharu Shida and Nami Matsuyama. The quality of the Japanese duo, world No 4, shone through in the end as the errors piled on from the Indians, who had made things interesting at 13-13.
In other results, Kiran George went down 12-21, 15-21 in a loss against Wang Tzu-Wei of Chinese Taipei. The men’s doubles pair of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila had a tough ask against Tokyo Olympics gold medallists Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Chinese Taipei and suffered a 9-21, 13-21 defeat. Rutaparna Panda and Swetaparna Panda went down against Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam of Hong Kong 6-21, 7-21.