Badminton Asia Championships 2018: Saina Nehwal confirms her third medal, HS Prannoy his first
What’s the story?
Commonwealth Games champion Saina Nehwal continues her impressive form as she confirmed at least a bronze medal by reaching the semi-finals of the Badminton Asia Championships 2018 in Wuhan, China on Friday. The former World No. 1 needed 43 minutes to prevail over the 15th ranked Lee Jang Mi 21-15, 21-13.
This will be the 28-year-old Nehwal’s third medal from the continental championships to add to the ones she won in 2010 and 2016. All of her medals so far have been bronze.
In men’s singles, HS Prannoy assured himself of a first medal from this prestigious tournament when he stormed back from a game down to upset the World No. 2 Son Wan Ho 18-21, 23-21, 21-12 in the quarter-finals.
In case you didn’t know
This will be India’s first men’s singles medal since Anup Sridhar’s bronze in 2007 and third overall. In 1965, Dinesh Khanna had captured the gold medal at the Asian Championships in Lucknow.
The heart of the matter
PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth too had made it to the quarter-finals, but they both failed to cross the quarter-final hurdle on Friday. Sindhu, a bronze medallist in 2014, squandered a 15-11 lead in the first game to go down to the seventh seeded Sung Ji Hyun 19-21, 10-21.
Srikanth met the legendary Lee Chong Wei for the third time in less than three weeks. However, he was a pale shadow of the shuttler, who beat the Malaysian in the mixed team final at the Commonwealth Games. In a one-sided contest, the Indian crashed out with a 12-21, 15-21 loss in just 32 minutes. The Guntur-born shuttler was searching for his first medal from this tournament.
Saina will hope to better the colour of her medal when she takes on the top seed and World No. 2 Tai Tzu Ying for a place in the final. It is a tough matchup for Nehwal, who trails their head-to-head meetings 5-10 and has lost their last eight encounters.
Prannoy too will have his hands full against the third seed and reigning Olympic champion, Chen Long. The Chinese leads their head-to-head clashes 3-1 but Prannoy was victorious in their last meeting at the Indonesia Open in 2017.
It is heartening to see Indians ensuring a couple of medals from this event, despite not getting much time to train following their exploits in Gold Coast. For Prannoy, Friday’s win will mean a lot more after the setback that he had at the Commonwealth Games, where he failed to capitalize on two bronze medal points.
It remains to be seen if Nehwal and Prannoy can now translate this confidence into a final berth at this tournament.