Sai Praneeth upset Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in straight games while Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth also won their respective matches as Indian shuttlers enjoyed a good outing in the first round of the All England Open badminton tournament at the Barclaycard Arena.
Praneeth, who qualifed for this tournament after fellow Indian Parupalli Kashyap withdrew with an injured knee, eked out a 24-22, 22-20 win over the second seeded Malaysian.
Lee, who missed last year’s event due to a doping suspension, suffered his biggest loss since making his comeback, which has seen him climb up the rankings from 182nd to second.
Praneeth, placed 37th in the world rankings, endured a tough start to the match late on Wednesday, and was trailing the first game 7-15 at one stage. But the plucky Indian won eight consecutive points to pull level. It was a see-saw battle from there on before Lee reached game point.
Praneeth, however, pulled level again before winning back to back points to seal the first game.
Praneeth fell behind in the second game as well, with Lee taking a 17-12 lead. But Praneeth tied him at 19-19 before winning three consecutive points towards the end to emerge victorious.
Srikanth, meanwhile, had a relatively easy outing, defeating Rajiv Ouseph of England 21-17, 21-12 in the first round.
He is expected to face much tougher competition in the second round when he meets fourth seed Kento Momota of Japan, who is one of the favourites for the title this year.
In the women’s section, Saina Nehwal beat Michelle Li of Canada 21-17, 21-12. Saina faced very little porblem from the Canadian, opening up a 15-9 lead in the opening game. Although Li won four consecutive games to narrow gap to 15-18, the Hyderabad girl managed to hold her own.
Li had a superb start to the second game, taking a 3-0 lead. But Saina staged a fine recovery before winning five consecutive points to wrap up the issue.
However, P.V. Sindhu crashed out in the first round, going down 21-18, 17-21, 12-21 to Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand after a tough fight.