Saina, Sikki/Ashwini in Semis, Srikanth Bows Out – QF Round-up from Orleans Masters

By: Sandhya
Date: 26 Mar, 2021
Image Courtesy: GoBadminton

Some heartwarming performances, punctuated by a few heartbreaking losses, quarterfinals day at the Orleans Masters 100 was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for the Indian fans as Saina Nehwal, Sikki-Ashwini, Ashwini-Dhruv, and Krishna Prasad-Vishnu Vardhan all made it into the final four of their respective events, while the likes of Dhruv-Arjun, Kidambi Srikanth and Ira Sharma suffered some tough reversals. 


On the balance of it, it has to be said that it was indeed a positive day for the Indian contingent, save for Kidambi Srikanth’s tough loss which jeopardizes his Olympic qualifications.


Opening the proceedings on QFs day, were Krishna Prasad/Vishnu Vardhan against the home team of Christo Popov and Toma Junior Popov. A solid opening game gave the Indians an edge in the match-up, but the Popov brothers weren’t going to make it easy. The Frenchmen made a quick start to the second game and while briefly the Indian duo tried to match them, they ran away winners with a string of eight straight points. While game three was definitely more competitive, the home team looked to have things under control with four match-points in sights. But then, Krishna/Vishnu produced a stirring rearguard action to save all four match points and then close the game and the match in an hour and three minutes.


Dhruv Kapila/MR Arjun were the other men’s doubles team in action on the day and narrowly lost the opening game to Hemming/Stallwood from England. A closely fought second game went in the Indians’ favor while the third was a fight-on-the-knife-edge all along. Dhruv/Arjun at one point did have three match points, but they squandered all to tie the game at 21-apiece. From here on it could have been anyone’s game and eventually the Englishmen handed the Indians a heartbreaking and hard-fought three-game loss.


Meanwhile, in women’s doubles Sikki Reddy & Ashwini Ponnappa produced a solid performance over number three seeds Chloe Birch/Larun Smith of England to advance into the final four. Sikki/Ashwini raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening exchanges and while briefly Birch/Smith leveled the game at 8-8, the Indian duo never looked threatened. The second game was a little more competitive but once again the experienced Indian pair ensured they never fell back too much and eventually made the move to overhaul the deficit and take the game, with it the match and a place in the semi-finals.


In singles action, Saina Nehwal had to work hard for her place in the semis, as she overcame the stiff resistance from Iris Wang 21-19 17-21 21-19. She will next face Line Christophersen of Denmark, who defeated Ira Sharma in straight games. Kidambi Srikanth also suffered a setback against Toma Junior Popov as he lost 19-21 17-21 to leave his Olympic Qualifications in a bit of a precarious spot right now. Srikanth was competitive in both games but lacked the cutting-edge to clinch the final points. 


The final match of the day featured mixed doubles pair of Dhruv Kapila & Ashwini Ponnappa, and they also made it to the final four with a comprehensive win over Max Flynn & Jessica Pugh of England.

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