Saina battles into semis

Saina battles into semis

Badminton India Open : Ace Indian fights past Sung in thriller; Sindhu bites the dust

Saina battles into semis

Saina Nehwal was stretched to the limits by fifth-seeded Korean Ji Hyun Sung before she eked out an energy sapping 19-21, 21-14, 21-19 win in the women’s singles quarterfinals of Yonex Sunrise India Open at the Sir Fort sports complex on Friday.

However, compatriot PV Sindu couldn’t survive a Korean onslaught, losing 21-5, 15-21, 15-21 to Yeon Ju Bae, leaving Saina as the only Indian in the draw.

Saina and Sung played themselves to a standstill in the marathon contest that lasted an hour and 23 minutes. Sung, with her wristy play and tremendous reach, kept Saina on her toes. The gangly Korean’s defense was strong and she picked up the second-seeded Indian’s smashes comfortably. It forced Saina to shift gears and employing more soft strokes and net play.  It prompted long, wearing rallies till the end.

Sung’s deceptive drops and half smashes troubled Saina, who was struggling on forecourt. The Korean opened up 9-5 lead in the opening game but the Indian leveled at 10-10. From then on both players kept dropping leads before Sung broke the deadlock at 17-17 to nose ahead.

She reeled three straight points to hold three game points at 20-17, the last point coming after a prolonged rally which the Korean won with a sharp smash. Saina managed to bridge the gap by winning two successive points but an error of judgment on Sung’s return allowed the Korean to run away with the opening game.

Sung, trailing 1-3 in the second game, called for a trainer. She, however, kept up with Saina. The Indian, however, cruised comfortably, with Sung making reams of unforced errors, to force the decider.

The two visibly drained players lunged at everything thrown at them, though the quality dipped in the third game. There were still magnificent rallies on display amidst countless errors as the contest dragged to 18-18. The tension was gripping but Saina fought back to grab two match points at 20-18.

Sung then made a fantastic comeback with an attacking net play. Still holding the match point, Saina found herself in the middle of another rally but this time she finished it with a half smash. Korean fell defending it, and Saina sunk on her knees. The two remained in the position for several seconds before the mesmerized crowd rose to its feet to ring the arena with thunderous applause. “I didn't expect her to do so many rallies actually. It has always been easy against her. It was never such a long match. But I guess there is lot of pressure also now on me," Saina said.

Saina next plays China’s Li Xuerui who beat compatriot Shixian Wang 22-20, 12-21, 21-17 in quarterfinals. In the men’s singles, Indonesian Tommy Sugiarto was stunned by Wan Ho Son of South Korea by 11-21, 21-13, 8-21 while Germany’s Marc Zwiebler was knocked out by Chinese Song Xue by 21-16, 13-21, 14-21.

Results (all quarterfnals): Men’s singles: Wan Ho Son (Kor) bt 8-Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) 21-11, 13-21, 21-8; 5-Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Wei Nan (Hkg)21-17, 21-12; 2-Kento Momota (Jap) bt Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) 21-8 21-9; Xue Song (Chn) bt Marc Zwiebler 16-21, 21-13, 21-14.

Women’s singles: 4-Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) bt 8-Tai Tzu Ying (Tpe) 12-21, 21-14; 22-20, 3-Li Xuerui (Chn) bt 6-Wang Shixian 22-20, 12-21, 21-17; 2-Saina Nehwal bt Sung Ji Hyun (Kor) 19-21, 21-14, 21-19; Yeon Ju Bae (Kor) bt PV Sindhu 15-21, 21-15, 21-15.

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