"I didn't play well, I am sorry." With those words, Saina Nehwal, on the verge of tears, left the media briefing after crashing out of the India Open Super Series at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Thursday.
Her second round match against Korea's Youn Joo Bae folded up in two games and she could not offer any explanation for the 19-21, 10-21 loss.
Saina looked in control in the first game but the Korean caught on fast. The first game was close but Saina looked completely off-colour in the second game. The world No 12 Korean enticed her to long rallies and Saina constantly found her returns either landing in the net or outside the line.
"I was playing with a free mind as the pressure was on Saina," said Youn.
Rupesh-Sanave's big break
The day, however, belonged to the two players who have been the pillars of Indian badminton for the last 10 years. Many have come and gone since the time they started playing together, but Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas have ploughed on. Even after playing for so many years on the international circuit, this men's doubles pair had never reached the quarterfinals of a Super Series event. All that changed on Thursday, when they beat the current Asian champions Ki Jung Kim and Sa Ra Kim 21-18, 18-21, 21-19 in an electrifying match.
The Korean pair is ranked 25 in the world, but has been the cause of many upsets lately. The two had defeated Rupesh-Sanave in the Asian Championships in Quingdao last week in the first round.
"We had lost to them pretty badly just last week and were not expecting to win here. We just thought we'll play better than the last time," said Sanave. For his 32-year-old partner, it was one of the moments which proved their worth to the country. "We have not performed well in India," said Rupesh. "We work very hard and even the matches that we lose abroad are very close three-game matches.
Kashyap wins, Ajay loses
P Kashyap too kept his Olympic-qualification chances upbeat with a thrilling 15-21, 21-14, 22-20 victory over Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana. His compatriot, Ajay Jayaram, was battling world No 1 Lee Chong Wei on the adjacent court but lost to the top seeded Malaysian 16-21, 21-15, 5-21. Other Indians to enter the next round are PV Sindhu, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. Meanwhile, all the seeded singles players advanced to the pre-quarterfinals except former All-England champion Tine Baun. But there were upsets galore in doubles, in which the third seeded Chinese pair of Biao Chai and Zhendong Gua and fourth seeded pair of Mohd Ahsan and Bona Septano crashed out.