Nehwal, Okuhara Progress – CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017: Day 2

Two Women’s Singles seeds lost high-profile opening round battles in today’s evening session at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017.

Spain’s Carolina Marin and Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun have both been consistent this season, but today they faced difficult opening round opponents. Second seed Marin lost her way early against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara but fought back gallantly. Her effort was to prove inadequate, however, as the Spaniard, champion here in 2015, narrowly fell short 21-12 21-19.

Marin joined No.4 seed Sung Ji Hyun out of the event – the Korean having fallen to her earliest World Superseries exit since November last year. Sung, finalist last week in Indonesia, was all at sea against defending champion Saina Nehwal (India), who powered past her 21-10 21-16.

“My ranking has dropped; I have to face top players in the first round,” said Nehwal. “I have the game, I just need to get these matches. My condition is not at its best. In the second game my stamina was coming down, but I still managed to pull it out. Beating Sung 10 and 16 means I have played well today. I didn’t expect to cross the first round, now I’m looking forward to the next one. I haven’t looked at the draw, so I have no idea who I’m playing next.

“My feel was good, the smashes were sharp. She was getting to the net quickly and keeping it tight at the net.  I had to be alert for that. She’s also very smart rally player. I’m surprised to beat her with this score. I’m quite happy.”

Nehwal’s compatriot Pusarla V Sindhu also progressed – stopping BCA Indonesia Open winner Sayaka Sato in a tense match, 21-17 14-21 21-18.

Pusarla admitted to succumbing to nerves in the second game before pulling herself together.

“I was confident in the second game but I made a few mistakes and then I got nervous,” Pusarla said. “I didn’t know what to do, nothing was going right. I was blank when she got the 17-13 lead. She was ahead early in the third game as well. My coach asked me to forget about my mistakes and to focus on the third game. There were a lot of rallies in the third and I managed to catch up with her.”

Top seed Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) booked her second round place against Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, while another in-form player, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, also eased into the second round, where she will face Singapore qualifier Yeo Jia Min.

Women’s Doubles fifth seeds Shin Seung Chan/Jung Kyung Eun lost a close battle to China’s Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua 21-17 21-18; Bao/Tang will take on compatriots Huang Yaqiong/Yu Xiaohan in the second round.

Japan had a good day with their four pairs progressing. Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao had the stiffest test of the four, getting past Thailand’s Puttita Supajirakul/Sapsiree Taerattanachai 21-16 21-16.

Men’s Doubles saw a surprise result, with young Indian pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty beating Hong Kong’s Law Cheuk Him/Lee Chun Hei 20-22 21-19 21-11.

The Indians take on Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi-Lin/Chen Hung Ling in the second round.

Second seeds Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen had a few hiccups in overcoming the challenge of Denmark’s David Daugaard/Mathias Christiansen, but the Chinese duly completed the task in 43 minutes: 21-18 23-21.

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