India’s top two women’s shuttlers had mixed fortunes on Thursday at the $300,000 Yonex Sunrise India Open Superseries in New Delhi as defending champion Saina Nehwal eked out a narrow win to enter the semi-finals while PV Sindhu crashed out in the quarter-finals.
The second-seeded Nehwal held her nerves to edge past the eighth-ranked Korean Sung Ji Hyun, 19-21, 21-14, 21-19 in a contest that lasted a marathon 83 minutes. But curtains came down on the campaign of the two-time World Championships bronze medallist PV Sindhu who squandered a one-game lead to go down 21-15, 15-21, 15-21 to World No. 15 Bae Yeon Ju of Korea. The match went on for 80 minutes.
Sindhu's third loss to Bae in four meetings
For the 20-year-old Sindhu, this was her third loss to the Korean in four career meetings. She started off on a confident note and surged to an 11-6 lead at the mid-game interval. As Bae continued to struggle, Sindhu, who had won the Malaysia Masters this year, wrapped up the opening game 21-15.
The scenario completely changed in the second game as the World No. 15 found an opening and had a slim advantage of 11-8 at the break. She came back to the court with more vigour and pocketed the next five points to jump to 16-8.
Sindhu tried her best to reduce the deficit but errors crept up in her game which did not help her cause. Bae thus clinched the second game 21-15. The lower-ranked Korean was the front-runner for much of the deciding third game as she raced away to 11-7.
A brief reprieve during the mid-game interval and a new racquet could not do much to change the crowd favourite’s fortunes as Bae returned to inch ahead 13-7.
Sindhu, however, did manage to take three points on the trot and close in on her opponent at 10-13. That could not throw Bae off her perch as she comfortably kept on increasing her lead with her younger rival erring at crucial junctures.
She had a handful of match points at 20-14 out of which Sindhu saved one but sent the shuttle wide on the next one to see her challenge come to an end.
Bae Yeon Ju will next meet fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon, who prevailed 12-21, 21-14, 22-20 over eighth seed Tai Tzu Ying.
Saina’s determination shines through
Earlier, Saina was not at her best as her ankle injury prevented her from retrieving a lot of points in the forecourt. But she made up for that with her determination and dogged resistance.
Besides, the opponent was very familiar for the Indian, who had got the better of the Korean five times out of six showdowns prior to Friday’s clash. The 26-year-old Padma Bhushan awardee herself was surprised at how well Sung competed and said that she was happy with her own performance.
“She has played really well. I didn’t expect her to do so many rallies actually,” said the World No. 6.
“She was picking up my shots. The last moments were actually very tense. It has always been easy against her. It was never such a long match. Once I think in Denmark I guess we played close. This time it was totally different. But I guess there is lot of pressure also now on me. I am happy with the way I played,” revealed the defending champion.
Next up for Saina: Li Xuerui
Next up is a tough proposition for the Indian superstar as she faces the former World No. 1 and reigning Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui, who carved out a hard-fought 22-20, 12-21, 21-17 victory over her sixth-seeded compatriot Wang Shixian.
The third seed has an intimidating 10-2 record over Nehwal and the last time that Saina beat her was way back in 2012.
Men’s singles: Viktor Axelsen aims to go one better than last year
On the men’s side, second seed Kento Momota justified his status as the highest remaining seed and a title favourite by thrashing Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus 21-8, 21-9. He will next square off against Chinese Xue Song, who outlasted Germany’s Marc Zwiebler 16-21, 21-13, 21-14.
The other men’s semi-final will see last year’s runner-up Viktor Axelsen taking on Korean Son Wan Ho. While the fifth-seeded Axelsen beat Wei Nan 21-17, 21-12, Son Wan Ho upset the eighth seed Tommy Sugiarto, 21-11, 13-21, 21-8.
Meanwhile, the only Indian doubles pair to reach the quarter-finals – the women’s doubles duo of Mohita Sahdev and Sanjana Santosh – exited the tournament on Friday. The Indians were pummelled 8-21, 2-21 by the Japanese combine of Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao.