Badminton: Defending champion B. Sai Praneeth out

India's B. Sai Praneeth (above), the men's singles defending champion, is powerless as he slumps to a shock 16-21, 21-16, 21-18 defeat by Yu Igarashi in the first round of the Singapore Open yesterday. Joining the Japanese in the men's singles second
India's B. Sai Praneeth (above), the men's singles defending champion, is powerless as he slumps to a shock 16-21, 21-16, 21-18 defeat by Yu Igarashi in the first round of the Singapore Open yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
India's B. Sai Praneeth (above), the men's singles defending champion, is powerless as he slumps to a shock 16-21, 21-16, 21-18 defeat by Yu Igarashi in the first round of the Singapore Open yesterday. Joining the Japanese in the men's singles second
Joining the Japanese in the men's singles second round will be Singapore's Loh Kean Yew (above). The world No. 176 ousted the 37th-ranked Frenchman Lucas Corvee 21-15, 21-16 in 38 minutes.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

India's Praneeth beaten in first round of the men's singles; good day for S'pore shuttlers

He reached for the towel around his neck, used it to wipe his brow, then heaved a sigh.

Men's singles defending champion B. Sai Praneeth was at a loss for words after a shock 16-21, 21-16, 21-18 defeat by Japan's Yu Igarashi in the first round of the Singapore Badminton Open yesterday.

The 25-year-old Indian shuttler, ranked 24th in the world, had led 11-8, then 14-12, in the third game against Igarashi, but the 59th-ranked Japanese rallied to post a remarkable victory at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

"I don't know," the sixth seed mumbled, when asked what contributed to his early exit.

"I was maybe under pressure. I was low on confidence. And when the points are going, then..." His voice trailed off as he shuffled quietly away from the interview zone and towards the changing room.

Praneeth's defeat capped a woeful day for India's seeded shuttlers.

The eighth-seeded women's doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy - both part of India's mixed team gold medallists at the Commonwealth Games in April - lost to Hong Kong pair Ng Tsz Yau and Yuen Sin Ying 18-21, 21-13, 21-14.

The men's doubles pair of Arjun M.R. and Ramchandran Shlok, seeded seventh, also crashed out after losing 19-21, 21-17, 21-19 to English duo Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.

In the women's singles, world No. 12 and third seed Zhang Beiwen, a Singapore citizen representing the United States, suffered a shock 15-21, 21-11, 21-16 loss to No. 41 Cai Yanyan of China.

Meanwhile, Loh Kean Yew flew the Singapore flag high when he became just the third local shuttler in the last decade after Ronald Susilo (2008) and Derek Wong (2014) to reach the last 16 of the Singapore Open.

The world No. 176 defeated No. 37 Lucas Corvee of France 21-15, 21-16 in just 38 minutes.

The national serviceman, originally a reserve but promoted to the qualifying draw of the men's singles competition after a series of main-draw withdrawals, attributed his victory to national singles coach Mulyo Handoyo.

The Indonesian joined the national set-up in February.

"In the past, I didn't have enough composure, rushed and made simple mistakes," said the 21-year-old Loh. "But now I play more patiently and more calmly... I can focus better now at every shot."

Singapore's representative in the women's singles competition, Yeo Jia Min, also progressed to the last 16 after she beat Thailand's Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 21-12, 24-22. Like Loh, 19-year-old Yeo was a reserve drafted in because of withdrawals.

The Republic's men's doubles pair of Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Terry Hee also beat Indonesian pair Andika Ramadiansyah and Rinov Rivaldy 21-19, 22-20.

Loh, Yeo and the pair of Chrisnanta and Hee, will play their round-of-16 matches today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2018, with the headline 'Defending champion out'. Print Edition | Subscribe