All England Open: Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu one win away from facing each other
While the girls celebrated, it was the end of the road for the Indian contingent in the mens singles section.
The country’s top two shuttle queens – Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu – are now one round away from facing each other after both of them notched up straight-game victories to enter the quarter-finals of the 2017 All England Championships at Birmingham on Thursday. The sixth seeded Sindhu had a more straight-forward win and needed just 30 minutes to get the better of the 39th ranked Dinar Dyah Ayustine, 21-12, 21-4.
The eighth seed and 2015 runner-up Saina Nehwal initially faced some stiff resistance from the 63rd ranked German Fabienne Deprez and then cruised to a 21-18, 21-10 victory. The match lasted 35 minutes.
Saina’s left-handed opponent was not ready to concede so easily in the first game. Despite trailing 6-11 at the mid-game interval, she made a strong comeback and levelled matters at 12-12 to put the World No. 9 under pressure.
It continued to be a closely-fought affair till 17-17 with none wanting to give up ground, following which the Indian accelerated to close out the opening game. That gritty fight bolstered her confidence and she had a far easier time in the second game.
Both of them are now likely to face top-5 opposition as they seek a place in the semi-finals. For the Rio Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, the job is even tougher as she can come up against the top seed and World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, the very player who beat her in the Hong Kong Open Superseries final in their last meeting.
Saina might square off against the third seed Sung Ji Hyun in her quest for a semi-final berth. The 2015 runner-up does have a 6-1 head-to-head record against the Korean and beat her in their most recent encounter at the Premier Badminton League in January.
But she has to be at her best right from the beginning should she get to meet the World No. 3. Sung was on a roll towards the end of the 2016 season and even made it to the final of the Dubai World Superseries Finals in December.
HS Prannoy bows out
While the girls celebrated, it was the end of the road for the Indian contingent in the men’s singles section. The last remaining player in that category – the 22nd ranked HS Prannoy – bowed out with a 13-21, 5-21 loss to the seventh seed Tian Houwei.