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Hong Kong Open: Saina Nehwal wins her first match since surgery as she enters Round 2

FEATURED COLUMNIST
823   //    23 Nov 2016, 14:06 IST
Saina Nehwal
Saina will next face the winner of the match between Sayaka Sato and Chiang Mei Hui

Giving ample evidence of an improved fitness, Saina Nehwal won the first match of her comeback from knee surgery as she made it through to the second round of the Hong Kong Open Superseries on Wednesday. The fifth seed eked out a tough 12-21, 21-19, 21-17 win over the World No. 12 Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand in 56 minutes.

Incidentally, Buranaprasertsuk was the same player who stopped Saina in the first round of the China Open last week even though the Indian had given a decent account of herself there by grabbing a game. This time, she did not allow a repeat of that result.

The start, however, was not favourable for the Indian and she took some time to settle into the match. But as the contest wore on, she started growing in confidence more and more.

In the second game too, the Thai was looking to assert herself early on and even built a 9-5 lead. But the champion in Saina awoke in time to begin an impressive fightback and she went into the break with a slender 11-10 advantage.

Also Read: The objectification of Indian women in professional sports – an issue that is going out of hand

Using her high smashes to perfection, the former World No. 1 nudged ahead to 18-14 although she could not keep a charging Buranaprasertsuk from storming back for 19-19. With the Thai conceding a couple of errors at that juncture, Nehwal levelled matters at one game apiece.

The first half of the decider was all Saina as she raced away to 11-4. From jumping to return high shots to crouching on her knee to retrieve the lower ones, the Indian showed very comfortable movement all over the court and inched ahead to 16-10. The aggressive intent being very much there, Nehwal looked absolutely pumped-up that was evident from her frequent shouts of ‘Come on”. 

It was thus just a matter of time before the Indian slammed shut the match to enter the second round. The 2010 champion will next face the winner of the match between Sayaka Sato and Chiang Mei Hui. 

Double delight in men’s singles

Meanwhile, there was double delight in men’s singles as Indian shuttlers won both the early men’s singles matches.

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HS Prannoy beat his China Open conqueror Qiao Bin 21-16, 21-18 in 48 minutes to set up a meeting with Chong Wei Feng, who upset the seventh seed Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.

Sameer Verma too joined him in Round 2 with a 22-20, 21-18 win over qualifier Takuma Ueda of Japan.

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FEATURED COLUMNIST
A freelance journalist based in Kolkata who is a diehard Rafael Nadal fan. She is also extremely passionate about India’s progress in sports and hopes to throw light on India’s unsung sports heroes through her articles. When not screaming her lungs out in support of her favourite sports stars, she can be seen reading, watching movies or immersed in planning her next travel destination!
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