Korea Open: Okuhara saves four match points to end Saina's campaign

Japan's Nozomi Okuhara defeats India's Saina Nehwal 15-21, 21-15, 22-20 in the quarterfinals of the Korea Open Super 500 tournament.

Saina Nehwal plays Nozomi Okuhara in the quarterfinals of Korea Open on Friday.   -  PTI

Hello and welcome to the LIVE updates from the quarterfinal clash of Korea Open between Saina Nehwal and third seed Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.

Saina Nehwal progressed to the quarterfinals after seeing off Korea’s Kim Ga Eun on Thursday. Former world number one, who had won a bronze at the Asian Games and gold at Commonwealth Games this year, defeated Kim Ga Eun 21-18, 21-18 in a 37-minute women’s singles pre-quarterfinal.

Fifth seed Saina will clash with 2017 world champion and third seed Japanese Nozomi Okuhara. Saina has a 6-3 head-to-head count against Okuhara, but she has lost to the Japanese in the last two meetings.

Saina had reached the final of Indonesia Masters in January and the only tournament she won was the Commonwealth Games in April, beating compatriot P.V. Sindhu in the final at Gold Coast.

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Updates:

 

Third Game

4:22pm: What a comeback by Okuhara! She saves four match points to defeat Saina Nehwal 15-21, 21-15, 22-20

4:21pm: Okuhara has saved three match points now! It's 19-20.

4:20pm: Okuhara saves one match point, trails 17-20.

4:18pm: All Saina has to do is keep her calm and play her shots. She leads 19-16.

4:16pm: Okuhara is getting desperate now. Tries a multitude of jumping smashes and shows urgency in her returns. Too hurried for her own good as she errs at the net. Saina gets a 18-14 lead.

4:14pm: Saina Nehwal gives an easy point away. She had all the time to smash a winner, but catches the net. Okuhara heaves a sigh of relief. Saina leads 16-13.

4:12pm: Saina gets a successful challenge for an in call to increase the lead to five points again. It's 15-10 and time for the home stretch.

4:10pm: Okuhara has bridged the gap, but Saina is still leading in the third game. It is too close for comfort now. Score 12-10.

4:07pm: Saina gets a crucial 5-point lead in the third game at 10-5. It is important for the Indian considering Okuhara has won the previous two matches when it stretched to the third game.

4:05pm: Okuhara hits a beautiful dipping crosscourt return to reduce the deficit. She trails 4-6.

4:03pm: Saina Nehwal challenges an 'in' call. Unsuccessful. The shuttle landed well within the sideline. But nothing to fret for Saina for the moment, she leads 5-2 in the decider.

Second Game

3:58pm: Saina manages to save one game point, but Okuhara takes the second game 21-15. The quarterfinal will now go into the decider. Score: 21-15, 15-21

3:55pm: The Japanese player is on a roll. She now leads 17-10, thanks to some smart placement shots.

3:54pm: The game resumes with a long rally. It's advantage Okuhara in the second game. She is enjoying a comfortable five-point lead now at 15-10.

3:52pm: Okuhara is gaining in confidence. She sports a smile after finishing off a point with a sharp smash to go into the mid-game break with 11-9 lead.

3:50pm: Okuhara has cut down on her errors and upped her defensive game. She is also able to get the kill when matters. Okuhara leads 10-8

3:46pm: Saina levels the score at 6-6. Okuhara is not the one to give up easily, if her battles against Sindhu are any indication. Both the players look equally competent and this match may just go down the wire.

3:45pm: Okuhara takes a 6-4 lead with a brilliant backhand crosscourt from the net.

3:42pm: Okuhara starts strongly. The Japanese player wins the longest rally of the match so far to go 2-0 up in the second game.

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First Game

3:39pm: Saina pockets the first game with a smash from the backcourt. Score: 21-15

3:37pm: Saina hasn't had to move around much in the first game. She has been able to get Okuhara to err with her returns with some quick returns and powerful smashes to race to a 20-12 lead. 

3:34pm: The Japanese, known among Indians for her feisty clashes with P.V. Sindhu, now trails Saina 12-16. Saina has kept her errors to a bare minimum so far and is fittingly leading in the first game.

3:32pm: Saina Nehwal goes into the mid-game break with a two-point lead at 12-10, thanks to a long return from Okuhara followed by a lucky on-line point from Saina. 

3:30pm: Saina is packing in as much power in her shots as possible and pushing Okuhara to the backcourt. The Indian has nudged ahead, only just, after the first long rallly of the match. After five minutes of play, it is all even at 8-8.

3:28pm: No major rallies so far. Both are level on scores at 6-6.

3:26pm: A net error from Okuhara gives Nehwal the first point of the match. She capitalises on it and gets into the groove.

3:25pm: Nozomi Okuhara wins the first two points with deft returns.