Saina, Sindhu, Jwala-Ashwini in line for Worlds medal

Jakarta : As many as three medals will be on the line for Indian shuttlers on Friday as Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu and the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa entered the quarter-finals of their respective categories at the World Championships here on Thursday.

A win will take the Indians to the semi-finals, which assures a shuttler of at least a bronze medal finish.

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However, it was the end of the road for Indian male shuttlers at the World meet as men’s singles third seed Kidambi Srikanth and 11th seed H.S. Prannoy were both ousted from the third round in three-game thrillers at the 9,000-seater Istora Senayan.

Earlier in the day, Indian badminton queens Saina and Sindhu earned contrasting wins to enter the women’s singles quarter-finals while Jwala and Ashwini fought hard to reach the women’s doubles last eight in dramatic fashion.

Double World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu, who is coming back from a long injury layoff, put herself well on course for a hat-trick of medals at the World event after defeating old nemesis and reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China.

The 20-year-old defied all odds to beat the third seeded Xuerui 21-17, 14-21, 21-17 in 50 minutes to secure her second win in four meetings against the World No.3.

After sharing the first two games, it all boiled down to the crucial third game where the 11th seeded Indian took a solid 8-3 and then later a 12-7 advantage. However, the former World No.1 Chinese bounced back to go 14-13 up.

The World No.13 Indian used cross-court smashes and drops to make Xuerui run for the shuttle and win the next five points to take a solid 18-14 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 an impressive 3-1 record. However, Sung won the last match the two played against each other in 2014 in Denmark.

“I am happy, I played well. Overall it was a good match. It was anyone’s game. (In the last game) it was 14-all, so there I took the lead and I won. Hope I play well in the next match too,” said Sindhu.

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 right from start to finish.

This will be Saina’s sixth consecutive quarter-final at the Worlds, after exiting all previous five times at the same stage.

However, she faces a tough round ahead as she takes on former world champion Yihan Wang of China. The former World No.1, who is seeded sixth here, has a 9-2 record against Saina in career meetings. But, importantly, the Hyderabadi won the last time the two met at All England in March.

Later, Jwala and Ashwini earned a thrilling three-game win over Japanese eighth seeds Reika Kakiiwa and Miyuki Maeda. The 13th seeds took just two minutes less than an hour to win 21-15, 18-21, 21-19 and advance to the last eight.

“Amazing win. It was an important win. I am very elated to have been able to perform this way. The Japanese are not easy to play, they never give up. Their defence is one of the best, but we got better of them today,” Jwala said.

The 2011 Worlds bronze medallists will look to repeat their performance when they take on Japan’s World No.17 Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao on Friday.

Much later in the day, Hong Kong’s 13th seed Hu Yun upset Srikanth 14-21, 21-17, 23-21 in an hour and one minute while Danish seventh seed Viktor Axelsen defeated Prannoy 21-16, 19-21, 21-18 in 58 minutes to end the Indian male challenge at the annual event.