Jwala-Ashwini take out third seeds

Underdogs seldom have it so good. On a day of dramatic action, they dug up graves for the favourites with alarming regularity and lay to rest all pre-match speculations.

In an unprecedented sequence of upsets, defending champion P. Kashyap led the top four seeds out of the men’s pre-quarterfinals of the $120,000 India Grand Prix badminton championship here on Thursday.

Kashyap, Ajay Jayaram, R.M.V. Gurusaidutt and Anand Pawar, seeded in that order, were ambushed by a bunch of ‘dangerous floaters’ who turned the formbook upside down. Eighth seed Sourabh Verma also exited after losing a close battle to ninth seeded Chinese Xue Song.

For the host, G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa provided the brightest spot by taking out third seeded Malaysians Amelia Alicia Anscelly and Fie Cho Soong 21-19, 15-21, 21-19 to gate-crash into the women’s doubles quarterfinals.

However, lost in the background was Aditya Prakash’s 21-19, 14-21, 21-13 triumph over Malaysia’s Soon Haut Goh, the conqueror of fifth seeded Frenchman Brice Leverdez on Wednesday.

In fact, the trend of the topsy-turvy results began with Shubhankar Dey, a hard-worker who gives the impression of lacking self-belief, punishing an off-colour Jayaram in 39 minutes.

On the adjacent court, Malaysian Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin was equally merciless on Pawar, who saved four game-points in the first game.

The bigger shock came when an erratic Kashyap joined the casualty list. Up against 12th seed Malaysian Zulfadli Zulkiffli, Kashyap committed many unforced errors and continually got the length of his returns wrong to make his rival look even better.

54-minute thriller

Following Kashyap on his way out was Gurusaidutt. B. Sai Praneeth ended the sequence of two successive losses in the past five weeks — in Mumbai and New Delhi — to Gurusaidutt by scripting a 15-21, 21-9, 21-16 triumph in a 54-minute thriller.

Sixth seeded National champion K. Srikanth, the highest ranked player left in the draw, too stared at a premature exit before making a sensational comeback.

Facing former National champion Arvind Bhat, the youngster saved four match-points in the second game and eventually converted the fifth match-point in the decider to survive the tense 71-minute encounter.

The ladies section saw the surviving six seeds, led by Saina Nehwal, take their allotted places in the quarterfinals.

The results (Indian unless stated): Pre-quarterfinals (prefix denotes seeding): Men: 12-Zulfadli Zulkiffli (Mas) bt 1-P. Kashyap 21-16, 21-12; 7-H.S. Prannoy bt 15-Chetan Anand 21-14, 21-10; 11-B. Sai Praneeth bt 3-R.M.V. Gurusaidutt 15-21, 21-9, 21-16; 6-K. Srikanth bt 14-Arvind Bhat 19-21, 23-21, 24-22; Aditya Prakash bt Soon Huat Goh (Mas) 21-19, 14-21, 21-13; 13-Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (Mas) bt 4-Anand Pawar 22-20, 21-11; 9-Xue Song (Chn) bt 8-Sourabh Verma 21-13, 14-21, 21-17; 16-Subhankar Dey bt 2-Ajay Jayaram 21-19, 21-17.

Women: 1-Saina Nehwal bt Natalia Perminova (Rus) 21-5, 21-10; 5-Bellaetrix Manuputty (Ina) bt Dhanya Nair 21-17, 21-14; Jing Yi Tee (Mas) bt Tanvi Lad 21-15, 21-17; 6-Xuan Deng (Chn) bt Saili Rane 21-8, 21-13; Arundhati Pantawane bt Natcha Saengchote (Tha) 21-13, 21-11; 4-Lindaweni Fanetri (Ina) bt Sayali Gokhale 21-11, 21-16; 7-Hera Desi (Ina) bt Santoshi Hasini 21-5, 21-9; 2-P.V. Sindhu bt Sabrina Jaquet (Sui) 21-19, 21-5.

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