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Sudirman Cup: Thailand blow away India 4-1 in group stage opener

The men’s pairing of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila was the only bright spot as India suffered a 1-4 loss to Thailand in their group A opener, jeopardising the chances of qualifying for knockout stage of Sudirman Cup badminton here on Sunday.

With P V Sindhu and the men’s doubles duo of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy missing in action, the onus was on senior players such as Kidambi Srikanth and women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy to carry the team through.

However, Srikanth and the duo of Ashwini and Sikki lost their respective matches, while the young Malvika Bansod also went down fighting in women’s singles as India’s fate against Thailand, a three-time semi-finalists, was sealed after the first four matches.

Former world No. 1 Srikanth was no match for three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn, going down 9-21 19-21 in 50 minutes, while Sikki and Ashwini ran out of steam during a 21-23 8-21 loss to world No. 8 combination of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.

Exposed to top-tier badminton, Malvika gave a good display of her immense potential but she lacked the power and precision to trouble Pornpawee Chochuwong, going down 11-21 14-21 against the world No. 10 in the women’s singles.

Arjun and Kapila’s impressive 21-18 21-17 win over Supak Jomkoh and Kittinupong Kedren, ranked 147th, in men’s doubles was the only highlight for India in a disappointing outing.

In the fifth and final match, the pair of B Sai Praneeth and Tanisha Crasto lost 13-21 11-21 to world No. 3 Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

India will play defending champion China on Monday, before taking on hosts Finland in the world mixed team championships on Wednesday.

Starting the proceedings, Arjun and Kapila got into attacking positions early, leading 4-0 before entering the break with a two-point advantage.

Arjun and Kapila, ranked 47th, kept their nose ahead despite the Thai pair putting pressure and restored the four-point lead at 17-13 before comfortably pocketing the first game.

The Thai pair made a recovery in the second game, running up a lead of 8-3 but Arjun and Kapila slowly restored parity and grabbed a slender one-point advantage at the interval.

The Indian duo broke off at 12-12 and built a lead to eventually shut the door on their opponents.

India have reached the quarterfinals of the tournament twice, in 2011 and 2017.

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