Malaysia Masters 2019: Saina Nehwal upsets Nozomi Okuhara to enter semifinals; Kidambi Srikanth exits
The top Indian shuttlers had contrasting fortunes at the Malaysia Masters 2019 in Kuala Lumpur on Friday as Saina Nehwal advanced to the semi-finals but Kidambi Srikanth crashed out. The seventh-seeded Nehwal needed 48 minutes to prevail over the World No. 2 and second seed Nozomi Okuhara 21-18, 23-21.
Up next for the 2017 champion is the fourth seed Carolina Marin in a blockbuster semi-final match on Saturday. The three-time world champion beat eighth seed Sung Ji Hyun 21-13, 21-13 in a dominant win.
For Nehwal, this was her third consecutive victory over the Japanese. Saina bested her at the Denmark Open as well as the French Open last year. Even though she needed three games to get the better of the former world champion in those two matches, she was able to finish it in straight games this time.
However, it wasn’t an easy outing even for Nehwal for she had to fight her way back in each game. In the first game, Okuhara broke away from a 9-9 tie to lead 15-9 following which Nehwal showed her steely resolve to get it.
In the second game too, the Japanese had the upper hand and led 18-14. Saina regrouped from there to draw level at 19-19 before going on to clinch the victory.
Srikanth, who beat former World No. 1 Son Wan Ho at the Premier Badminton League Season 4, could not produce that same effort at this Super 500 event. Son Wan Ho had finished last season riding high on his Hong Kong Open and Korea Masters titles. As the match progressed, he grew in confidence and secured the 21-23, 21-16, 21-17 win in 1 hour 12 minutes.
Srikanth trailed 9-11 in the second game after edging the Korean 23-21 in the first game. But Son Wan Ho simply accelerated from thereon, closing out the second game 21-16.
The Indian once again made a positive start in the decider, racing ahead to 5-1. But errors crept in soon enough and he could not hold on to it any longer. Son Wan Ho wrested away the momentum to go up to 13-10 and steadily added points to stretch the lead to 16-12 before closing out the match.