London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal inched closer to her dream of winning the prestigious All England Championship as the Indian advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling three-game victory over former world number one Shixian Wang of China in the womens singles competition on Friday.
The world number three Saina retrieved everything thrown at her and engaged her rival into long rallies to eventually prevail 23-21 19-21 21-16 over Shixian in an hour and 14 minutes to equal her exploits at the 2010 edition of the $400,000 Super series event. The duo had played each other four times with Saina having the upper hand in three occasions.
The Hyderabadi will next take on the winner between fourth seed German Juliane Schenk and eight seed Thai Ratchanok Intanon on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Saina opened up a
7-3 lead and went into the breather with a slender 11-10 advantage in the first game. After the break,Saina and Shixian engaged in a tooth and nail battle to move to 16-16.
Shixian soon moved to 19-16 but Saina caught her at the left side of the court and also forced the Chinese to commit errors to draw parity. Saina dominated the nets to reach 21-20 and a bodyline smash and a deceiving drop helped her to lead 1-0.
In the second game,Shixian rushed to a 6-1 lead quickly but Saina covered the ground to make it 8-8. However,the Chinese reeled off five straight points to go into the breather at 11-8. The Chinese caught Saina at the forecourt and varied the pace to extent the lead to 13-9. But Sainas down the line smashes,tireless rallies and Shixians erratic stokes helped her to claw back at 13-13.
The Chinese hit a couple of shots wide to allow Saina to reach 17-13. The Indian lost a few points when she failed to get the length right and hit wide,A wrong line judgement allowed Shixian to claw back at 18-18.
Saina failed to retrieve the shuttle at the forecourt to allow Shixian to take the lead but a courageous net play helped the Indian to once again make the scores level at 19-19. A terrific down the line smash helped Shixian to go to 20-19 and when Saina hit the next shot out,it meant that Shixian was back into the contest.
Saina was a bit unlucky,as,serving at 19-20,the Indian should have got a point as Shixian gave a late call to say she was not ready even though she was in position initially.
The decider turned out to be a nail-biting affair. Lagging 3-5 in the final game,Saina lead 6-5 but a few errors in her lifts allowed Shixian to turn the table at 7-6. However,a few line calls went against the Chinese as Saina went into the breather leading 11-7.
Two unforced errors helped Saina extend her lead to 14-8. Shixian mixed her strokes well,varying the pace constantly to slowly claw back at 12-15. But Saina was focussed and composed and gathered two more points but Shixian remained competitive. In the end,the Indian kept the pressure on to eventually seal the issue when Shixian found the net.
Kashyap misses out
However,world number nine Parupalli Kashyaps quest to move further up was cut short by second seed Chen Long as the Chinese notched up a 21-16 21-10 win in the mens singles competition. In the 43-minute mens singles battle,Kashyap had his moments as he lead 11-10 at the break of the first game but the experienced Long caught up at 14-14 and then moved ahead to lead 1-0. In the second game,Long was more dominating and didnt give Kashyap any chance to challenge him and sealed his place at the semifinals comfortably in the end.