India got off to the worst possible start in the ongoing Thomas Cup 2018 world team championships as the men's team suffered a shock 4-1 defeat to minnows France in their Group A opener on Sunday, May 20 in Bangkok, Thailand.
With the unexpected opening-day loss, India are in danger of getting knocked out of the tournament early.
They need to win their next two matches (against Australia and Asian powerhouses China) in the round-robin group stage to remain in contention for a spot in the quarter-final of the premier tournament.
Sai starts strong but doubles pairs struggle
India started on a strong note with world number 18 Sai Praneeth clinching a comfortable straight-game win over lower-ranked Brice Leverdez of France.
In the second rubber, India's men's doubles pairing of Arjun MR and Ramchandran Shlok went down to French pairing of Bastian Kersaudy and Julien Maio in straight games to allow France to level the tie at 1-1.
Sameer faces shock defeat
India then suffered a huge setback when world number 21 Sameer Verma was stunned by lower-ranked Lucas Corvee.
The 23-year-old, one of the most experienced campaigners in the Thomas Cup squad, came up with a drab show, much to the disappointment of the Indian contingent in Bangkok.
Verma was facing the risk of a defeat in two games but he managed to force a decider by saving three match points in the second game.
The Indian shuttler failed to make use of the opportunity as Corvee took the final game comfortably to win the match 21-18, 20-22, 21-18.
In the next must-win rubber, India's Arun George and Sanyam Shukla were crushed by French doubles pairing of Thom Gicquel and Ronan Labar 21-10, 21-12.
In the last rubber of the tie, former junior world number one Lakshya Sen lost a hard-fought match against 19-year-old Tomas Junior Popov 20-22, 21-19, 19-21.
Notably, India had rested world number nine HS Prannoy for what was expected to be an easy tie for the Asian giants.
However, the absence of top-ranked doubles pairs in Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty and Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy is certainly hurting India. While the former pair was rested for the tournament, Attri reportedly suffered an injury after reaching Bangkok.
World number four Kidambi Srikanth has also not traveled with the squad to Bangkok due to injury concerns.
Complete results - India vs France, Thomas Cup 2018
- Sai Praneeth defeated Brice Leverdez - 21-7, 21-18
- Arjun MR/Ramchandran Shlok lose to Bastian Kersaudy/Julien Maio - 13-21, 16-21
- Sameer Verma loses to Lucas Corvee - 18-21, 22-20, 18-21
- Arun George/Sanyam Shukla lose to Thom Gicquel/Ronan Labar - 10-21, 12-21
- Lakshya Sen vs Tomas Junior Popov - 20-22, 21-19, 19-21