Shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Anup Sridhar on Sunday saved India from a total wash-out on the second day of the Beijing Olympics as shooters spearheaded by World Champion Manavjit Singh Sandhu and the women's archery team bowed out of the competition.
Nehwal, the national champion, kept India's flag flying high with an emphatic victory Ukrainian opponent Larysa Gryga to move into the pre-quarterfinals of the women's individual events at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium.
The Indian took time to measure her opponent, whom she played for the first time, before pulling out all the stops to chalk out a convincing 21-18, 21-10 victory in just 28 minutes.
Saina's real test, however, begins now, for the Indian is set to lock horns tomorrow with world number five and fourth seed Chen Wang of Hong Kong, someone she could not beat in her last two attempts.
"It's going to be tough, no question about that," Saina, bathed in sweat, said after the second round match.
"We met twice so far and on all two occasions, she won. But at the same time, both the matches went right down to the wire, which means she had to break sweat getting past."
Much like Nehwal, Sridhar, India's lone male badminton player in the Games, breezed into the second round of the singles event with a straight game win against Marco Vasconcelos of Portugal in the Beijing Olympic here.
The Indian took just about half an hour to tame his opponent 21-16, 21-14 to set up a second round clash with world number 12 Shoji Sato of Japan who is regarded as one of the most nimble-footed shuttlers around.
Sridhar, who is yet to regain full fitness since twisting his ankle last month, looked a little rusty in the first game. Marco had in fact a better start as the Portuguese raced to a 6-3 lead before the Indian went on to win five points on the trot to snatch the lead and never lost it as he wrapped up the game in 15 minutes.
In the second game, however, Sridhar seized early initiative to go 6-1 up and again he never allowed the Portuguese to pose any threat to the cushion as he sealed the match in style.
The dismal show by the shooters continued with Manavjit, World title holder in trap event, buckling under pressure and compatriot Mansher Singh too failing to make it to the finals.
Tipped a medal prospect, Manavjit could manage only 116 our of 125 to finish 12th at the end of the five-round qualifying sessions spread over two days at the Beijing Shooting Range.
In comparison, Mansher did better, tallying 117 to finish eighth. Mansher in fact came close to qualifying for the finals but in the end, a place in the top six just proved elusive for him.
After his rounds of 23,23,24 on day one, Manavjit needed something special today to put himself back in contention for a top-six place but his final two rounds of 22 and 24 saw his hopes go up in smoke.
In contrast, Mansher was more consistent as he fired twin 24 but yesterday's 20 in the third round proved costly. But for that wretched round, Mansher could well have managed a place in the final.