After the loss of Kidambi Srikanth in three gruelling games in the quarter-finals of the Malaysia Masters on Friday, 2017 champion Saina Nehwal remains the last Indian standing at this Super 500 tournament. On Saturday, Nehwal has an uphill task against the three-time world champion Carolina Marin and it will be one match that no Indian badminton fan would like to miss.
(7) Saina Nehwal (WR #9) vs (4) Carolina Marin (WR #6)
Head-to-head: They are tied at 5-5
Last meeting: Marin def Nehwal 21-6, 21-11 in the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Championships
For both Nehwal and Marin, this is the first tournament of the new season. Both played a few matches at the Premier Badminton League Season 4 to get a bit of match play and be ready for the new challenges.
It perhaps did help Nehwal, going by the kind of resilience she produced even when she was looking down and out against Deng Joy Xuan in the first round. Struggling for one and a half games, the former World No. 1 looked to be heading for an early exit until she found her rhythm. That effort boosted her confidence as was evident in her next couple of rounds. While Yip Pui Yin was not expected to trouble the Indian much, the way she fought back in each game against someone of the stature of Nozomi Okuhara on Friday, was admirable.
Marin has had an easier time on the court than Saina. Not only is she yet to drop a game in three rounds, one of her matches was even cut short due her opponent's injury-induced retirement. The southpaw's comfortable victory over the dangerous Sung Ji Hyun in the quarters should put her in the right frame of mind ahead of her battle with Nehwal.
The two are even in their head-to-head meetings. In their only face-off last year, the resurgent Marin outplayed the Indian. But the one before that was won by Nehwal.
Saina surely knows what it takes to trouble the Spaniard. If she can suffocate the Olympic champion's highly aggressive game by making her run around the court and by directing the shots to her backhand, she could fancy her chances. This is a tough one for Saina and Marin should be the favourite, given how she began to look more like her usual self in the second half of the 2018 season when she went on to win three titles.
But Saina is way too experienced. Since this is the start of the season, Saina will still have fresh legs to tackle Marin and that might just make a difference.
Here’s all the information you need to know about the matches:
Tournament name: Perodua Malaysia Masters 2019
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Category: Super 500
Date: Saturday, January 19, 2019
Time: (7) Saina Nehwal vs (4) Carolina Marin at approx 12:40 pm local time or 10:10 am IST
Channel: Star Sports Select 1 and Star Sports Select 1 HD
Live streaming: hotstar.com
Live updates: On SportskeedaPublished 18 Jan 2019, 22:53 IST