Three-time champion Saina Nehwal staved off a challenge from a lower-ranked Pai Yu Po of Chinese Taipei to make a positive start to her women’s singles campaign at the USD 900,000 Indonesia Super Series Premier badminton tournament.
Eighth seed Saina recovered from a mid-game slump to register a 21-11 19-21 21-15 win over World No. 23 Pai Yu Po in a match that lasted an hour and three minutes at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.
World No. 8 Saina will next take on Indonesian Fitriani Fitriani on Wednesday.
However, Indian mixed doubles pair of Manu Attri and Ashwini Ponnappa fought hard before going down 14-21 25-27 to Singapore combo of Yong Kai Terry Hee and Wei Han Tan in a 30-minute match.
Looking for her maiden title of the season, Saina had to fight for each point early on as Pai too came up with a good game. But the Indian soon started to dominate and distanced herself from the Taiwan girl.
At 14-11, Saina reeled off seven straight points to grab the opening match.
In the second game, Saina had moved to a 10-5 lead but Pai turned the tables with a seven-point burst to move to 12-10. The Indian tried to regain the lead but Pai staved off the challenge and roared back into the contest.
In the decider, Saina surged ahead to a 11-5 lead but Pai once again caught up with the Indian at 13-13. But this time, Saina ensured there was no hiccup as she closed the door after moving to 18-13 with five straight points.
Saina had won the Indonesia Open title in 2009, 2010 and 2012.