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All England: Saina in quarters; Ashwini-Jwala out

Saina Nehwal in action against Pi Hongyan on Thursday

World No.4 Saina Nehwal finally notched up her first win against Frenchwoman Pi Hongyan as she sealed her place in the quarterfinals of the All England on Thursday. Saina, who had never beaten Hongyan in five previous meetings, powered past the Chinese-born Frenchwoman 21-10 21-17 in just 34 minutes. However, the Indian duo of Jwala Gutta/ Ashwini Ponnappa crashed out earlier in the day, failing to get past one of the world’s best pairs, Qing Tian and Zhao Yunlei, 21-10 21-15.

The record was against Saina, as she had always found Hongyan a tough nut to crack. Their last match was three years ago at the All England first round, which Hongyan had won in straight games. Hongyan’s rallying style had been too good for Saina’s attacking game, but the Indian has since then improved, and Hongyan herself is in the evening of an illustrious career. The Indian’s pace and attacking prowess proved too good for Hongyan, who fell behind early on in the first game. Saina’s prowess was evident, as she smashes frequently and scored nine smash winners to zero from Hongyan. She was equally at ease at the net, scoring nine net winners.

Hongyan recovered in the second game, overcoming a 6-11 deficit and remaining close until 15-all. Saina suddenly surged ahead with four successive points, and the match was good as over.

Saina next plays Chinese Li Xuerui, a player she has had problems with in the past. Should she get past Xuerui, she will have made the semifinals of the All England for the second time in her career.

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