Saina Nehwal rallies past Ji Hyun, Sindhu stumbles

Nehwal, defending champion and second seed, overcame the loss of the first game to win 19-21, 21-14, 21-19 in a match that witnessed long rallies and court-craft from both players until their tiring limbs filled the home-stretch with a series of unforced errors.

This was Nehwal’s sixth victory over the Korean in seven encounters.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Saina Nehwal just about managed to survive a 82-minute test against Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun for a place in the semifinals of the USD 300,000 India Open in front of a vociferous bunch of supporters at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium here on Friday. Nehwal, defending champion and second seed, overcame the loss of the first game to win 19-21, 21-14, 21-19 in a match that witnessed long rallies and court-craft from both players until their tiring limbs filled the home-stretch with a series of unforced errors.

This was Nehwal’s sixth victory over the Korean in seven encounters. “I have always beaten her with ease but today she played much better. I never expected her to rally so much,” was what the Indian said after the match. She now plays her nemesis, Olympic champion Li Xuerui who overcame her Chinese teammate Wang Shixian 22-20, 12-21, 21-17. Having lost to Xuerui 10 times in 12 meetings, Nehwal will start the match as the underdog. A victory on Saturday is bound to be a huge psychological boost for Nehwal in the Olympic year.

However, P. V. Sindhu failed to double India’s joy. In the day’s last match that lasted 80 minutes, Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju made light of the loss of the first game to win 15-21, 21-15, 21-15. Bae, the only unseeded player in the last-four stage, will face former World champion Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, seeded four. The Korean made the first big move towards victory by jumping to a 13-7 lead in the deciding game after winning five points on the trot. Though the lanky Indian did manage to close the gap to 15-13, a couple of errors on the forecourt, coupled with an uncharacteristic smash into the net soon allowed Bae the luxury of six match-points. Sindhu saved one but on the next point, hit the shuttle long.

In the men’s singles, where the Indian interest ended in the first round, second-seeded Japanese Kento Momota looked the most impressive semifinalist as he dismantled Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus 21-8, 21-9. He next plays rising China’s star Xue Song who bounced back to tame Germany’s numero uno Marc Zwiebler in three games. In the top-half of the draw, unseeded Son Wan Ho, the Korean who got past Lin Dan on Thursday, upstaged eighth seeded Indonesian Tommy Sugiarto in 21-11, 11-21, 21-8.

He next plays fifth seed Victor Axelsen, the flashy Dane, who breezed past Hong Kong’s Wei Nan, the conqueror of Lee Chong Wei in the previous round.

The results (quarterfinals, prefix denotes seeding):

Men singles: 5-Victor Axelsen (Den) bt Wei Nan (Hkg) 21-17, 21-12; Son Won Ho (Kor) bt 8-Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) 21-11, 13-21, 21-8; Xue Song (Chn) bt Marc Zwiebler (Ger) 16-21, 21-13, 21-14; 2-Kento Momota (Jpn) bt Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) 21-8, 21-9.

Women singles: Bae Yeon Yu (Kor) bt P. V. Sindhu 15-21, 21-15, 21-15; 4-Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) bt 8-Tai Tzu Ying (Tpe) 12-21, 21-14, 22-20; 3-Li Xuerui (Chn) bt 6-Wag Shixian (Chn) 22-20, 12-21, 21-17; 2-Saina Nehwal bt 5-Sung Ji Hyun (Kor) 19-21, 21-14, 21-19.