India’s woes in the Rio Olympics continued, with badminton star Saina Nehwal crashing out of the Games without even making it to the knock out round on Sunday.
Men’s singles player Kidambi Srikanth, however, lifted some gloom, advancing to the pre-quarterfinals. Former World No. 3, Srikanth defeated Sweden’s Henri Hurskainen 21-6 21-18 in the second match of group H that lasted 34 minutes here.
Srikanth thus avenged his loss to Henri in 2014 Swiss Open. The World No. 11 Indian, who had won the 2014 China Open and 2015 India Open, stamped his authority with his strokes and also pushed his rival to make mistakes. In the opening game, Srikanth led 13-4 before moving to 17-5 with a towering cross court smash. The Indian had no problem in dealing with Henri and took just 13 minutes to wrap up the game.
Stung by the first game reversal, Henri raised his game and fought hard to move neck-and-neck from 8-8 to 11-11. Srikanth opened up a 15-12 lead but the left-handed shuttler kept breathing down the neck of the Indian. In the end, it was two long shots from Henri which helped Srikanth to seal the issue in his favour and reach the pre-quarterfinals.
World No. 5 Nehwal, who won a historic bronze in London Olympics, lost 18-21, 19-21 to world No. 61 Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in a match that lasted 39 minutes.
The former world no. 1, who had beaten Brazilian Vicente Lohaynny on August 11 in the three-woman Group G, had carried a knee injury into the Games, she revealed after the game. “I had a knee pain and could not give my best. It was heavily strapped, and I tried my best. My movements were not smooth and were painful. It’s heartbreaking loss. I also feel very bad about it,” Saina said after her shock exit.
The injury happened during training before the Olympics and it got worse after she reached Rio, she said. “It happened just before the Olympics about one and half weeks back. It happened during training and got aggravated after coming here,” she said.
“She played better but I was not able to move on the court. I tried for improvement but was not successful,” she explained further.
The victory propelled the tall Ukrainian into the knock out pre-quarter finals while knocking Saina out of contention to send shock waves in the Indian camp which has drawn a blank in the first eight days of competition here.
Indian shooters ended their campaign on a disappointing note when rifle shooters Gagan Narang, bronze medalist in London in 2012, and Chain Singh crashed out of the 3-position event - the last one scheduled in Olympics programme.
Chain Singh was in the running to enter the finals after the prone and kneeling rounds but then a series of poor rounds in the standing position left him stranded in the 23rd spot with a total of 1169 in the qualification stage.
Narang looked out of sorts from the beginning and was trailing far behind before eventually finishing in the 33rd place out of 44 with 1162.