India’s young but depleted men and women’s teams jeopardised their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage after suffering an identical 1-4 loss to France and Canada in the opening Group A match of the Thomas and Uber Cup Final in Bangkok on Sunday.
The Indian men’s team paid the price for not fielding world number 9 H S Prannoy and the doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, as the young and inexperienced team proved no match for their French counterparts, who were ranked lower.
World number 18 B Sai Praneeth gave India a positive start, defeating Brice Leverdez 21-7 21-18 to take a 1-0 lead, but none of the other players could step up when it mattered.
In the second match, world number 38 Arjun MR and Ramchandran Shlok, who had recently reached the quarterfinals at Australia and Swiss Open, lost 13-21 16-21 to Bastian Kersaudy and Julien Maio, ranked 47th.
Swiss Open champion Sameer Verma, ranked 21, was then handed the responsibility of bringing India back into the contest but he went down 18-21 22-20 18-21 to world number 43 Lucas Corvee in the second singles as France grabbed a 2-1 lead.
World number 70 Arun George and Sanyam Shukla then took the field in the second doubles match, but they were no match for 103 ranked Thom Gicquel and Ronan Labar, losing 10-21 12-21 in a 28-minute match.
Young Lakshya Sen fought hard before losing 20-22 21-19 19-21 to Toma Junior Popov in the third singles. India will face Australia on Sunday.
In the Uber Cup, India is without the services of Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu and the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy, and are heavily dependent on Saina Nehwal to guide the women’s team, which had won bronze in the last two editions.
However, CWG gold medallist Saina went down 21-15 16-21 16-21 to Michelle Li in the first match, to hand over a 1-0 lead to Canada.
Young Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka then lost 11-21 13-21 to Rachel Honderich as Canada grabbed a 2-0 advantage.
The doubles pair of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram, ranked 41, gave India a glimmer of hope as they beat Michelle Tong and Josephine Wu 21-19 21-15 in 27 minutes, but Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli failed to get it across Brittney Tam, losing 11-21 15-21, as Canada took an unassailable 3-1 lead.
In the fifth and final match, Sanyogita Ghorpade and Prajakta Sawant lost 15-21 16-21 to Rachel Honderich and Kristen Tsai to end their miserable outing.