World No 11 Kidambi Srikanth overcame some stiff resistance in the second game from lower ranked Mexican rival Lino Munoz before winning his group H clash in straight games in men’s badminton singles at the Olympic Games here.
Srikanth, the only Indian male shuttler in fray in singles, got past world No 85 Munoz 21-11 21-17 in 41 minutes to give a perfect ending to the sixth day of competitions.
Earlier, Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu had also won their opening group matches in women’s singles while the combinations of Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponnappa (women’s doubles) and Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy (men’s doubles) tasted defeats in their respective group openers.
If Srikanth, who had defeated badminton super star Lin Dan to win the Chinese Open two years ago, had expected an easier outing than he encountered, it was belied by the Mexican’s will to fight with good backing from the crowd, especially in the second game.
After taking the opening game comfortably, the cushion of a 16-9 lead proving handy, Srikanth was given a tough fight in the second as he had to rally from behind on quite a few occasions before using his better court craft and experience to see him through.
Srikanth led 6-2 but the Mexican drew level and then led 8-6 before the Indian fought back to restore parity.
Srikanth was 11-9 ahead at the break but a series of poor returns of serve saw the Indian down 11-12.
Things were neck to neck from this point till 13-all before Munoz again went up to 16-13 with the help of some weak mid-court clears by the Indian that were “killed” without much ado by the Mexican.
Srikanth again caught up at 16, fell behind 16-17 through another weak mid-court clear, but finally brought his game back on track to level the scores at 17 with a superb smash to the forehand side of his rival.
From then on the superiority of the Indian shuttler came to the fore as he came up with successive cross court and down the line smashes to lead 19-17 which were followed by a netted shot by his rival to give Srikanth four match points.
The last point was won by the Indian with a bodyline smash followed by a push to the back court that caught the Mexican in no-man’s land.
After two days’ rest Srikanth will be up against Sweden’s Henri Hurskainen, the world no 50 on August 14 in his second and last Group H clash.
Earlier in the day, London Games bronze winner Saina staved off a spirited challenge from World No 73 Brazilian Vicente Lohaynny 21-17 21-17 in a women’s singles match that lasted 39 minutes, while two-time World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu spanked World No. 64 Laura Sarosi of Hungary 21-8 21-9 in 27 minutes.
Saina will face World No. 61 Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in a Group G match on August 14 and ninth seed Sindhu will clash with Glasgow Commonwealth Games champion Li Michelle of Canada in Group M on the same day to complete the preliminary group engagements.
Jwala and Ashwini, however, lost their women’s doubles league opener after going down 15-21 10-21 to the World No.1 Japanese pair of Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsumoto. Men’s doubles duo of Manu and Sumeeth lost 18-21 13-21 to World No 2 Indonesian duo of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.