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BWF World Tour Finals: Srikanth, Ponappa-Sikki Reddy suffer defeats


India’s Kidambi Srikanth jeopardised his chances of making it to the knockout stage of the BWF World Tour Finals after losing to Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn in straight games in his second Group B match here on Thursday.

World number 14 Srikanth, who had reached the knockout stage in the 2014 edition of the year-ending event, went down 18-21, 7-21 to three-time junior world champion Vitidsarn in a 46-minute men’s singles match.

Earlier, the women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy suffered second successive loss in the event, going down fighting 19-21, 20-22 to Bulgaria’s Gabriela Stoeva and Stefani Stoeva to bow out of contention.

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The Indian duo will face England’s Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith in its last Group B match.

The top men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty handed a walkover to top seeded Indonesian pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo after the former complained of a knee pain. The duo will not take further participation in the tournament.

For Srikanth, it was his third defeat to Vitidsarn, having lost to him at the Sudirman Cup in September and Asia Team Championships last year.

In Group B, Malaysian second seed Lee Zii Jia is at the top with two points, while Srikanth and Vitidsarn shared a point each after registering one victory and one loss.

While Srikanth will face Lee Zii Jia in his third match, Vitidsarn will meet France’s Toma Junior Popov.

The winner will finish in the top 2 and qualify for the knockout stage, and if both win their respective matches, it will boil down to the number of games won and lost.

The fast-rising world number 23 Vitidsarn was rewarded for his immaculate defence as he didn’t allow Srikanth to mount his attack. There was never a lack of commitment from Srikanth but his younger rival was way better on the day.

Vitidsarn had an early 5-2 lead and went into the break with a healthy 11-6 advantage. A six-point burst allowed Srikanth to narrow it down to 13-15 but the Thai again marched ahead to 19-14 and quickly pocketed the opening game.

It was a one-way traffic in the second game as Srikanth just couldn’t match his rival and the rallies where he seemed to trouble his opponent ended with him committing unforced errors.

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Play was suspended due to poor visibility with Srikanth lagging 6-13 but it didn’t matter much as Vitidsarn closed out the match by taking the next 8 points.

On Wednesday, Lakshya Sen, the youngest Indian to qualify for the year-ending event, made it to the semifinals after his opponent Kento Momota retired with a back injury and Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke, who is also in Group A, conceding his match against compatriot Viktor Axelsen due to a knee injury.

With both Momota and Gemke pulling out, Lakshya and Axelsen are set to qualify from the group.

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