Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth in cruise mode at Orleans Masters

Indian aces Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth shook off injury concerns to record comfortable straight-game victories in their respective ties of the French tourney.

By Rahul Venkat

London 2012 bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal and former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth enjoyed a comfortable outing at the Orleans Masters on Wednesday.

While Saina Nehwal moved into the second round of the competition after a 21-9, 21-5 win over Rachael Darragh of Ireland in the women’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth registered a dominant 21-15, 21-10 win over compatriot Ajay Jayaram.

It was a welcome return to court for the Indian badminton legend Saina Nehwal after she had been forced to withdraw from the All England Open last week with a suspected thigh strain.

The victory will help Saina Nehwal earn some ranking points in her quest to make the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

The first game had all the traits that the Indian badminton player is known for. Saina Nehwal was at her best with her dipping forehands and cross-court shots, with Rachael Darragh’s only points coming when the Indian made an error.

The Irish shuttler troubled Saina Nehwal during the closing stages, engaging her in a long rally, but the former world No. 1 Indian dealt with the challenge and closed out the game soon.

The second game was an even shorter affair for fourth seed Saina Nehwal. She forced Darragh back with her long serves and then took advantage by aiming her returns just over the net.

It proved to be too much to handle for the Irish player, as she routinely committed errors and was unable to cover the court effectively.

Saina Nehwal fittingly ended the match with a backhand cross-court winner, which dipped over the net and was well out of Darragh’s reach.

The Indian will now face Frenchwoman Marie Batomene in the women’s singles Round of 16.

Later, the top-seed in the men’s singles segment, Kidambi Srikanth began his Orleans Masters campaign with a comfortable 21-15, 21-10 win over Ajay Jayaram.

The 33-year-old Ajay Jayaram, who saw off youngster Alap Mishra in a three-game thriller on Tuesday, was evidently feeling the tiredness of the match that lasted for about an hour as he found it hard to match Srikanth’s pace throughout the tie.

Though Ajay Jayaram stayed within his touching distance until 14-14 in the opening game, Kidambi Srikanth soon switched gears to take the opening game.

Ajay Jayaram was no match for the Guntur shuttler in the second as Kidambi Srikanth was quick to race off the blocks and opened an 11-4 lead at the mid-game interval. From there on, it was all about consolidating his position for Kidambi.

Kidambi Srikanth will take on Malaysia’s Cheam June Wei next.

The Indian women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy too made it to the second following a closely fought win over Amalie Magelund and Freja Ravn of Denmark.

The Indian recorded a 21-9, 17-21, 21-19 win and will take on Indonesia's Febriana Dwipuji Kusuma and Amalia Cahaya Pratiwi in the second round.

For more updates on the Indian contingent, follow our live blog of Day 2 of the Orleans Masters.