India’s top badminton star Saina Nehwal laboured past American Beiwen Zhang in three tough games to reach the women’s singles quarterfinals of the All-England badminton championships.
The seventh seed Saina defeated the American qualifier 24-22, 18-21, 21-19 in an hour in the second round contest to remain as the only Indian in the prestigious championship.
The Commonwealth Games gold medallist next faces fourth seed Chinese Wang Shixian, who brushed aside the challenge of Ireland’s Chloe Magee of 21-15, 21-12 in her second round match.
Form, a concern
Ratchanok Intanon, the youngest-ever World singles champion, moved to within one win of a probable All-England Open showdown with Li Xuerui, the Olympic champion, before admitting her patchy form is scary.
The two women battled into the quarterfinals on Thursday, with the 19-year-old Thai coming from behind for the second day in succession and then producing a confessional about her mental state.
At one stage Ratchanok was a game down and the scores were tied at 11-11 all, before getting past Han Li, the World No.19 from China, by 18-21, 21-14, 21-11.
The day before she was within three points of defeat against the Singaporean Gu Juan. Honing her survival instincts in this way despite a patchy performance may be crucial, as the seven months since she overcame Li in the world final have, she admits, been hard to handle.
“Everyone has been trying to beat me and I have been putting myself under pressure and been scared of the losses,” said the Thai teenager. “So I try to concentrate on practising. I try not to think about the World championships because I am not the World No.1.”
That of course is Li, who earlier made a great escape for the second successive day by coming from a game and 8-13 down against Minatsu Mitani, the World No.16 from Japan, also drifting to within three points of defeat before winning 14-21, 21-19, 21-15.