Saina, Sindhu reach World badminton quarters

Jakarta: Indian badminton queens Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu earned contrasting wins to enter the women’s singles quarterfinals of the World Championships here on Thursday.

Double World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu, coming back from a long injury layoff, put herself well on course for another medal at the event after defeating old nemesis and reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China in the 9,000-seater Istora Senayan.

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The 20-year-old from Hyderabad defied all odds to beat the third seeded Xuerui 21-17, 14-21, 21-17 in 50 minutes to enter the last eight. This was 11th seed Sindhu’s second win out of four meetings against the World No.3.

After sharing the first two games, it all boiled down to the crucial third game where Sindhu took a solid 8-3 and then later a 12-7 advantage. However, the reigning Asian Games champion bounced back to go 14-13 up.

The World No.13 Indian used cross court smashes and drops to make the Chinese run for the shuttle and win the next five points to take a solid 18-13 lead.

It was only a matter of time before Sindhu closed the match in her favour, knocking out the Chinese who reached the finals of the last two editions to claim two silvers.

Next up, Sindhu will take on South Korean eighth seed Sung Ji Hyun, against whom the Indian has a 3-1 record in career meetings. Sung won the last time the two played against each other last year in Denmark.

A little while later, World No.2 Saina also displayed superb skills to ease past 14th seed Sayaka Takahashi 21-18, 21-14 in 47 minutes. This was the second seeded Indian’s fourth win over the Japanese in as many meetings.

It was a comprehensive performance from the Olympic bronze medallist and she looked in control of the match right from start to finish.

This will be Saina’s sixth consecutive quarterfinal at the Worlds, after exiting all previous five times at the same stage. She will take on the winner of the match between China’s Yihan Wang and Yeon Ju Bae of South Korea.

A semifinal appearance assures a shuttler of at least a bronze medal finish.