Indonesia Open: Saina Nehwal battles to enter second round, Manu-Ashwini duo loses
Jakarta: 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 on Tuesday.
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.
The soft-spoken Indian ace was not known for her aggression till five years back and it was chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, who had transformed her into an aggressive player ahead of the Rio Games.
The world number seven Indian will next play Hong Kong's world number 34 Cheung Ngan Yi in the group stage.
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