There was double delight at the 2016 Hong Kong Open Superseries on Friday with two Indians – PV Sindhu and Sameer Verma – making it through to the semi-finals. However, 2010 champion Saina Nehwal could not find herself in the list of winners even though she put up a gutsy effort until the end. Along with her, the India men’s singles No. 2 Ajay Jayaram also crashed out.
All eyes were on the two Indian shuttle queens Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu as a win in their respective quarter-final matches would have set them up against each other. And the winner of that all-Indian semi-final would have got a ticket to the prestigious Superseries Finals to be played in Dubai next month.
It wasn’t mean to be. Even though the China Open champion Sindhu eked out a tough 21-17, 21-23, 21-18 win over Singapore’s World No. 32 Xiaoyu Liang, Nehwal bowed out 8-21, 21-18, 19-21 to the 26th ranked Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong in a hard-fought encounter.
Admirable effort from Saina despite the loss
The first game of Saina’s match was an entirely one-sided affair with the Indian struggling to reach the angular, deep shots that her opponent was relentlessly hitting the corners. The World No. 26 looked very sharp and exploited Saina’s movement to grab the game, 21-8.
The champion in Nehwal awoke in the next game, and she was determined to make a fight out of this. This being just her second tournament since knee surgery, it was an admirable performance from the former World No. 1 who looked near to her best even in the eventual loss.
She came back from 7-11 down in the second game to go up 16-14. The business end continued to be a gritty affair with the Indian managing to stave off the local hope for a decider.
In the third game, the fifth seed cruised to 7-4 initially before the lower-ranked player stormed back for 11-10. Cheung then hit the accelerator button to race ahead to 18-11 only to see the fighter in Saina erasing that big lead soon after.
Nehwal closed in to make 17-18, but a crucial error at that juncture awarded the momentum back to her rival who converted on her second match point for the win in 1 hour 11 minutes.
Earlier in the day, PV Sindhu recorded her eighth consecutive win en route to reaching the last-four stage. The World No. 9, who overtook Saina Nehwal in the latest BWF Rankings on Thursday, came back from a 7-14 deficit in the third game to clinch the win in 1 hour 19 minutes.
Saina’s quarter-final loss ensured that the Rio Olympic silver medallist would get the eighth and final spot at the World Superseries Finals.
Sameer soars, Ajay falls
In men’s singles, World No. 43 Sameer Verma reached the semi-finals of a Superseries event for the first time in his career with a 21-17, 23-21 victory over the 53rd ranked Malaysian Wei Feng Chong. He, however, has an uphill task in his next round as he faces the third seed and reigning China Open champion Jan O Jorgensen for a place in the final.
Ajay Jayaram, in contrast, stumbled against the World No. 14 NG Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong 15-21, 14-21 in just 32 minutes.