Glasgow, Scotland: Drawing inspiration from some of the greats in her own sport and Roger Federer, Saina Nehwal, trying to find her way back to the elite in the sport after her knee surgery last year, sent second seed Sung Ji Hyun packing to enter the World Badminton Championships quarter-final for the seventh time in succession.
Earlier, Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu ensured the Indian challenge progressed into the last eight stage beating their respective opponents, Danish Anders Antonsen and Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi.
Srikanth and Sindhu got their wins in rather contrasting fashions. As Srikanth continued to a third successive straight games win, this time over young Antonsen, 21-14, 21-18, Sindhu came from the brink to get past a strong and persistent Cheung 19-21, 23-21, 21-17 in a marathon 87-minute clash.
In the quarters, Saina will meet local star, Kirsty Gilmour, while Srikanth clashes with top-seed Korean Son Wan Ho and fourth seed Sindhu will meet fifth seed Sun Yu of China.
Ajay Jayaram was crushed 21-11, 21-10 by defending champion Chen Long of China, who progressed towards a third World Championships title and another Indian, Sai Praneeth, the 15th seed, lost to Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien Chen 21-19, 10-21, 12-21 in 61 minutes.
Earlier on Thursday, India’s last doubles pair, the mixed pairing of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy fought well before exiting 22-20, 21-18, 21-18 against seventh seeded Indonesians Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto.
There was a shock exit in women’s singles, where China’s new young talent, the 19-year-old Chen Yufei ousted top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, once again opening up the field.
In men’s singles Lin Dan did the Houdini act once again, beating England’s 1.90m tall Rajeev Ouseph of Indian origin in three games 14-21, 21-17, 21-16.
Saina turned in a stellar performance. Speaking after her win she said, “Every match is a tough match but I have to believe in myself that I can come back stronger. When Tine Baun, Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Roger Federer can do it, why not me. You just have to take inspiration from these top players. Whether the results come after one year or two years you have to keep on doing the hard work and the results will come. Its not like I can't beat them. I have defeated them before and you need to be patient once you have such difficult injury.”
On her injury and surgery last year, she added, “Injuries are still easy to come back. But surgery was new experience. I never thought that it would take so much time to come back and win tough matches, win good matches. It was very painful to come out of the knee surgery and you know whenever I do my sessions, it hurts a lot. Nobody knows, only I know how much it hurts. But you have to deal with it. It’s a sport and every player has gone through it. I don’t mind having these painful days but I want to come back stronger, I want to win matches. That’s what gives me satisfaction. That’s what I want to do.”
Asked what her mindset was when pitted against the second seed, Saina said, “I don't really want to think of it as playing world number two, I just want to think of it as I am playing her (Sung) and I have played her a lot of times. But it is on the back of your mind, that you are playing against someone who has been very consistent this season – reached semi-finals in most events. She played amazingly, a lot of difficult shots. She doesn't have a big hit, but hits steep shots."
More than once Saina had to come back in the game. "I am really happy I could recover (from) the lead she had - 17-13. I usually don't (have to) recover like that in many matches, I usually have the lead, but quite a few times I recovered the lead so I am happy."
On first game, she added, "The first game is crucial, because that is when you gain extra confidence - when you have the first game with you."
Srikanth’s win over the young European Championship runner-up Antonsen was on expected lines with the Indian in total command.
Srikanth smiled and said, “I am happy that I have started well and am now looking forward to the next matches. No match is easy in World Championship and even though I won in straight game, I have had to play hard in each game.”
As for meeting the top-seeded Korean Son Wan Ho, who was taken to three games by Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, Srikanth said, “You cannot go by past records. He is world No 1 and is a very good player. So one cannot say anything about his form.” Son Wan came through 21-14, 17-21, 21-13. Though the Korean lost the second game, he was not really in much trouble in the decider.
After his own win, Son Wan Ho said, “I think it was a very tough game but I am already looking forward to tomorrows match. I believe that these competitions and matches are really important for me because this is one of the biggest tournaments of the year.”
Srikanth and Son Wan have a 4-4 head to head record, but the Indian has won last two times, in Australia and Indonesia before that. Both times Srikanth won the Super Series titles.
In Australia, Srikanth beat Son Wan in first round and Chen Long in the final, while in Indonesia, Srikanth beat Son Wan in semi-finals. So, he would have the psychological advantage, but he was not willing to be swayed by past wins.
Sindhu’s match swung from one end to the other and even the two-time world Champion and 2016 Olympic silver medal winning Indian admitted to nervousness. “After losing the first game, I was nervous, but the coach kept encouraging me and saying, don’t worry.”
She went on, “Cheung was going for each shot and the rallies were getting long and I was getting frustrated also I was missing a tap-in or a smash here and there.”
On what may have been the turning point of the match, Sindhu said, “That 21st point in the second game.” Cheung caught up at 20-20 after being three points down. But Sindhu managed to close the game 23-21 in a thrilling game.
“In the third again, she was not letting go and it was close, and I was telling myself to try and close it,” said Sindhu. Ultimately, she won 21-17 to make her way to the quarters.
On meeting Sun Yu, she said, “That is again to be a difficult match. After all it is the World Championships and she is a tall player like me and very good.” Sun Yu won the last time they met in Dubai, but Sindhu won the match before that and with it the title in China Open.
Ouseph on his match with Lin Dan said, “I thought I had been playing well and yesterday Lin Dan was pushed hard so I knew I had a chance today if I played well.”
Lin Dan, who has five stars tattooed on his left arm to signify his five world titles, said, “It was a little tough for me to take hold of the situation in the first set as he started the match so quickly.”
Updated Date: Aug 25, 2017 14:10 PM