Saina Nehwal, Lakshya Sen lose at All England


Sports, Badminton

Saina is placed 20th on the BWF rankings with 46267 points and needs to enter the top-16 bracket by April 28

COSTLY LOSS: Saina Nehwal plays a backhand. PTI Photo

Birmingham: Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal's chances of qualifying for the Olympics took a hit after she made a first-round exit from the All England Championships, following a loss to Japanese nemesis Akane Yamaguchi.

Up against world number three Yamaguchi, it was a tough opening round for Saina, who lost 11-21, 8-21 in just 28 minutes on Wednesday.

Rising Indian shuttler Lakshya Sen too was knocked out after losing in straight games to Victor Axelsen here on Thursday. Lakshay went down to the world number seven Dane 17-21, 18-21 in a hard fought second round battle which lasted 45 minutes.

Saina is placed 20th on the BWF rankings with 46267 points and the 2012 London Olympics bronze-medallist needs to enter the top-16 bracket by April 28 to make the cut for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

She now needs strong performances to pocket crucial ranking points but considering that several sporting events are being cancelled in view of the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, it remains to be seen how many she actually gets to play.

The 29-year-old is scheduled to compete at the Swiss Open (March 17-22), India Open (March 24-29) and Malaysia Open (March 31-April 5) in the following weeks.

It was Saina's ninth defeat in 11 matches against the formidable Japanese and her third first-round exit this season.

With Saina's defeat, reigning world champion PV Sindhu is the only Indian left in the women's singles draw. Sindhu beat American Beiwin Zhang in straight games on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old Sen is the only Indian left in fray in the men's singles draw as P Kashyap retired from his first-round contest against Shesar Hiren Rhustavito and B Sai Praneeth lost his on Wednesday.

Kashyap's match lasted just one minute. He was trailing 0-3 when he decided to call it quits.