Arundhati Pantawane hit a down the line smash to finish a rally that lasted over 30 shots and then went down on her knees exhausted. The match was already 45 minutes old and, considering that the Nagpur girl was playing in only her first international tournament, forcing world number 19 Mew Choo Wong to play such a long rally was indeed an achievement.
But despite Pantawane's heroics, Wong, seeded third, pulled off her first-round tie in the $120,000 India Open beating her opponent 16-21, 21-13, 21-19 in 48 minutes.
Pantawane was not the only shuttler to show grit before bowing out on Wednesday. Trupti Murgunde made top-seed Pi Hongyan of France earn her 21-18, 21-18 win, Anjali Kalitha stretched world number 31 Yu Hirayama, Guru Sai Dutt gave a good account of himself against China's Chen Long — who had upset world number one Lee Chong Wei in the opening round of men's singles — and national champion Sayali Gokhale pulled off a game against world number 15 Julia Pei Wong of Malaysia.
However, it was a mixed day for the stars, with last edition's finalist and third-seed Chetan Anand going down to Wenlong Zhou of China 21-9, 22-24, 21-8 in the men's singles second round, while Olympian Anup Sridhar, Aravind Bhat, Anand Pawar and women's second-seed Saina Nehwal advanced to the pre-quarterfinals.
While Saina was clinical in her 21-6, 21-10 win over Chew Ng of Malaysia, it was the performance of the second rung that pleased national coach Pullela Gopichand the most. "This is why we should have more international tournaments in India. Playing one match here gives the players the experience of years," he added. Pantawane spoke for all her compatriots when she said that they had nothing to lose. "Playing in your backyard only stokes the hunger in you," she said.
While there were a lot of positives, Chetan was below par on Wednesday. He somehow managed to survive the first round against Chong Chieh Lok of Malaysia.
Chetan saved a match point before registering a 14-21, 21-9, 22-20 win.
He saved two match points in Rd 2 against Zhou and took the match into the decider but failed to raise his game and went down. "I made a lot of errors," he said. Second-seed Taufik Hidayat survived a scare against Yun Hu of Hong Kong before winning 18-21, 21-18, 21-19.