Nanning: India's top-ranked shuttler PV Sindhu won her singles match but India failed to get a win over Malaysia as a team as they lost 2-3 in a tight and thrilling opening encounter of their campaign.
While Sindhu's was an expected win, it was Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Ashwini Ponnappa's win over Goh Soon Huat-Lai Shevon Jemie in the mixed doubles match is what gave India a big early hope.
However, the hope sunk as Sameer Verma lost his men's singles match and then India could not hold ground in the men's doubles and women's doubles matches and ended up losing the tie.
India went with the surprise choice of fielding Sameer as their men's singles player instead of top-ranked Kidambi Srikanth but the move backfired massively. While Sameer was perhaps chosen keeping in mind the slow conditions of the hall, he lost to a lower-ranked player to tilt the tie in Malaysia's favour.
Malaysia was always going to be a tricky customer for India considering their quality in the doubles. While India would generally expect to win the singles matches, the fact that Sameer was fielded made things even more tricky.
In the end, Malaysia's men's singles player Lee Zii Jia stepped up when it mattered the most and the men's doubles pair of Aaron Chia-Teo Ee Yi and women's doubles pair Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean took Malaysia to victory.
India started the day on a high when Satwik-Ashwini pulled off a brilliant win against Goh-Lai. The Malaysian pair is ranked higher than the Indians but Ashwini-Satwik displayed nerves of steel and some excellent attacking play to take the match 16-21, 21-17, 24-22.
The match was throughout extremely tight and it was only in the later half of the first game that the Malaysian pair pulled away. In the second game, however, Ashwini and Satwik enabled themselves to take more of the attacking mantle which paid dividends.
The decider was edge-of-the-seat stuff. The momentum kept swinging as both teams were desperate for a win. While Ashwini and Satwik had a three-point lead at one point, Goh-Lai stormed back with four straight points to bring up their first match point.
Ashwini-Satwik saved two match points and converted their second to give India the precious lead in the tie.
It was then upto Sameer and Sindhu to win their respective singles and win the tie. However, the story completely changed as Sameer took the court against Lee Zii Jia and lost 13-21, 15-21.
Lee is the world No.20 right now, placed six places below Sameer in the BWF rankings. However, none of that mattered as Lee took the attack to Sameer and got a good start to the match.
With his accuracy, quick play and immense belief, Lee never let Sameer settle in the match. During the interval in the first game, Sameer was even heard telling his coaches, "He is cagying me, I can't seem to move. How long will I play on the front court."
Lee had managed to work around Sameer and did not let the Indian pace the rallies according to him.
Sameer attempted but just could not maintain the accuracy that was required and Lee easily took the match away.
The third match of the tie was Sindhu against Goh Jin Wei and as expected the Indian came out all guns blazing and absolutely trampled past the Malaysian 21-12, 21-8 in just 35 minutes.
Against Aaron-Teo, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy fought hard in the men's doubles but fell just short 20-22, 19-21. Manu-Sumeeth put their best foot forward but the Malaysian pair just proved to be better.
The deciding match of the tie, the women's doubles between Ashwiini-N Sikki Reddy and Chow-Lee was a tight one. With their head-to-head record locked at 2-2, this was always going to be an exciting prospect - a match that could go anybody's way.
Chow-Lee began the match on a high as Ashwini-Sikki failed to show much mettle and zeal. The first game was almost a giveaway as Chow and Lee stamped their authority and took it 21-11.
However, Ashwini-Sikki turned it around in the second game with better positional play and showing a bit more restraint in their attack and play. Ashwini-Sikki were on course to take the second game with a 19-16 lead. However, the Malaysian pair hit back strong and earned five straight points to win the match 21-11, 21-19 and bag the tie for Malaysia.