Olympic silver-medallist P V Sindhu entered the semifinals of the Hong Kong Super Series after posting a hard-fought victory over Singapore’s Xiaoyu Liang even as Saina Nehwal bowed out.
Had the former World No. 1 and London Olympics bronze medallist Saina won her match, she would have met Sindhu in an all Indian battle in the semifinals.
The only time Saina and Sindhu clashed at the international circuit was at the 2014 India Grand Prix gold tournament and it was the senior shuttler who had the last laugh in a two-game match.
Earlier, Sindhu, who clinched the China Open last week, staved off a stiff challenge from Xiaoyu Liang 21-17 21-23 21-18 in a quarterfinal match that lasted an hour and 19 minutes at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
Fifth-seeded Saina, meanwhile, failed to cross the hurdle as she was stunned by unseeded local shuttler Cheung Ngan Yi 8-21 21-18 19-21 in a contest that lasted an hour and 11 minutes. The Indian had earlier beaten Cheung Ngan Yi at the World Championships last year.
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In the latest BWF rankings, Sindhu has jumped two places, courtesy her China Open win, to grab the ninth spot, while Saina, who is on a comeback trail after recovering from a serious injury, slipped five places to 11th, owing to her first round exit at the same event.
In the Destinational Dubai ranking for the BWF Super Series Final, Sindhu (38,490) is ahead of Saina (38,080) by a few points.
Hence, when the rankings come out next week, Sindhu is likely to qualify for the prestigious tournament, to be held next month.
Meanwhile, Sameer Verma reached the semifinals of the men’s singles after getting the better of Malaysia’s Chong Wei Feng 21-17 23-21 in just 47 minutes.
However, it was curtains for Ajay Jayaram as he lost his quarterfinal match to NG Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong 15-21 14-21 in 32 minutes and crashed out of the event.
Analysing her quarterfinal match that she won in three games, Sindhu said although she managed to pull it off she was not up to the mark.
“I was leading but lost the second game. She (Xiaoyu Lian) played well. I was very nervous and gave a huge lead. I was 7-15 down in the third. My shots were going out, even the once I had to get. I was not confident in playing strokes. Even when I played safe the shots were going out.
“I didn’t know what to play. After 7-15 I got confident. Liang is good, she has improved a lot. I was not up to the mark,” said Sindhu.
Saina said that since the last two matches were very tiring, it became a bit tough for her today as she was still not 100 per cent fit.
“The last two matches were too tiring. I pushed myself but it was too tough for me today. I was trying but she (Cheung Ngan Yi) was a bit more alert in the end. I was trying to get my breath back and she was pushing hard,” said Saina.
“I had the feeling I could have won. But it is not easy when you are not fit. I’m not disappointed with the loss. I am happy that I am playing well after comeback. I could have played semis but when your condition is not good you can’t expect too much,” she added.