Denmark Open: Saina beats Yamaguchi, enters quarterfinals

This was Nehwal’s second career win over Yamaguchi, who has won six times in the head-to-head encounters between the two.

Saina Nehwal’s first win against Yamaguchi came in 2014 during the China Open.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal defeated world no.2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan for the first time in four years to enter the quarterfinals of the Denmark Open, in Odense on Thursday.

Saina Nehwal, an Olympic bronze-medallist who has dropped to World No. 27, registered an easy 21-15, 21-17 win over second-seeded Yamaguchi in the pre-quarterfinal match that lasted just 36 minutes.

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The 28-year-old Indian will now take on World No. 3 and another Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in the quarters on Friday.

This was Nehwal’s second career win over Yamaguchi, who has won six times in the head-to-head encounters between the two.

Saina Nehwal’s first win against Yamaguchi came in 2014 during the China Open.

Since then, Yamaguchi has enjoyed the upper hand against the Indian. The earlier two meetings this year — Uber Cup in May and Malaysia Open in June — also went in Yamaguchi’s favour.

Saina Nehwal trailed 0-4 initially but she made a fine comeback to level the scores at 10-10. But from there, Saina showed tremendous resolve and reeled off five straight points to take a 15-10 lead and then widened it to 19-12.

Yamaguchi recovered a bit but Saina Nehwal grabbed five-game points at 20-15 and then easily pocketed the first game.

In the second game, it was Saina’s turn to take the lead initially as she zoomed to 7-2 but Yamaguchi caught up with her at 11-11.

After that, it was a close tussle between the two as they were locked 17-17.

At that stage, Saina Nehwal cinched four points on the trot to win the second game and clinch the match.

Verma sails into quarters

Sameer Verma held his nerve to beat Asian Games champion Jonathan Christie to reach the men’s singles quarterfinals.

The ninth-ranked Indian let go of three match points in the deciding game before pulling off a 23-21, 6-21, 22-20 win over the world number 12 from Indonesia.