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Saina, Srikanth make winning starts; Kiran George stuns Prannoy in Orleans Masters

Fourth seeded Saina, who is desperately seeking ranking points to make it to her fourth Olympics, took just 21 minutes to crush Ireland’s Rachael Darragh 21-9 21-5 in a women’s singles opening round match and set up a clash with France’s Marie Batomene, ranked 65th in the world.

The London Olympics bronze medallist had pulled out of the opening round of All England Open Championships last week after suffering a thigh injury.

Top Indian male shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, seeded number one, entered the third round with a 21-15 21-10 win over compatriot Ajay Jayaram 21-15 21-10 in 25 minutes in the second round. He will next meet Malaysia’s Cheam June Wei, who is ranked 79 in the world.

In the first round, Srikanth had received a bye, while Ajay had prevailed 19-21 23-21 21-16 over fellow Indian Alap Mishra.

The 21-year-old Kiran, who had shocked Netherland’s All England semifinalist Mark Caljouw 13-21 21-18 22-20 in his first round match, produced yet another stunning win as he knocked out former top 10 player Prannoy 13-21 21-16 23-21 in a 59-minute match.

The world No. 112 Indian will face France’s Brice Leverdez next on Thursday (March 25).

Chirag Sen too made it to the third round after beating Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo 21-13 21-12. He will square off against third seed Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus of Denmark.

In the women’s singles, Ira Sharma, who was promoted to the main draw from the women’s singles qualification, saw off France’s Leonice Huet 12-21 21-14 21-17 and will clash against Bulgaria’s Mariya Mitsova.

Former Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap bowed out after losing 7-21 17-21 to France’s Toma Junior Popov, while Ditlev Jaeger Holm of Denmark ended India’s BM Rahul Bharadwaj’s campaign with a 21-15 21-19 win.

Mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy beat Austria’s Dominik Stipsits and Serena Au Yeong 21-7 21-18. The Indian duo will meet Denmark’s Niclas Nohr and Amalie Magelund next.

Ashwini Ponnappa also combined with Dhruv Kapila to get the better of Bulgarian pair of Iliyan Stoynov and Hristomira Popovska 21-8 21-12. The Indian duo will face off against England’s Callum Hemming and Victoria Williams on Thursday (March 25).

In other results, Mithun Manjunath beat France’s Lucas Claerbout 21-14 21-10 but Subhankar Dey lost 17-21 13-21 to Denmark’s Ditlev Jaeger Holm in the opening round on Tuesday (March 23).

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