Super Saina keeps hopes alive
Officially crowned the world no. 1, ace shuttler Saina Nehwal emerged as the lone Indian hope at the Malaysia Super Series premier badminton tournament after she defeated Chinese qualifier Xue Yao to reach the quarterfinal of the $500,000 event.
Saina, who was ensured of the world no. 1 during her exploits at the India Open triumph, continued her rampaging run with a dominating win over Yao 21-13, 21-9 in a lop-sided 30-minute women’s singles match to set up a clash with another Chinese shuttler, Sun Yu, ranked 15th in the world.
After clinching successive titles last month, world no. 4 Kidambi Srikanth lost in the second round today, going down to China’s Tian Houwei 14-21, 18-21 in a men’s singles match. It was also curtains for Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap and Indonesian Masters winner H S Prannoy.
Kashyap, who slipped to world number 17 today following a dip in performance due to a spate of injuries, suffered a 10-21, 6-21 defeat to world no. 1 Chen Long of China. Prannoy, who jumped three places to 14th after his giant-killing exploits at the India Open, went down to two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China 15-21, 14-21 in another men’s singles match that lasted 52 minutes.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, too, suffered a loss in the second round, going down fighting 23-21, 8-21, 17-21 to sixth seeded Indonesian pair of Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii in a close to an hour match. Interestingly, it was Yao who had ended Saina’s campaign at the 2014 Malaysia Open but on Thursday the Indian just brushed her aside, riding on her better foot movement and powerful array of strokes. Olympic bronze medallist Saina hardly broke a sweat against Yao in the first round as she led from start to finish. The closest the Chinese could come was 11-12 but the Indian soon changed gears and marched ahead to lead 1-0. In the second game, Saina broke off at 3-3 and slowly but steadily surged ahead to eventually close it without much ado at the Putra Stadium.
Up next is Sun, against who Saina has a 2-1 record. Sun had beaten the Indian during the 2013 China Open. A win on Friday will pit Saina against either world no. 3 Li Xuerui or fifth seed Wang Yihan, whom she had beaten at the All England championship last month.
It’s official, Nehwal is World No. 1
Indian ace Saina Nehwal’s ascent to the top of women’s badminton was officially confirmed on Thursday with the release of the latest rankings by the game’s international governing body. In becoming the first Indian woman shuttler to attain the number one spot in world rankings, Saina took over the reins from China’s Li Xuerui, who slipped to third with Spain’s Carolina Marin claiming the second position. Saina, who had clinched the India Open Super Series title on March 29, was already assured of the top spot after her closest challenger for the position, Carolina, lost in the semifinals. Saina thus becomes only the second Indian overall to be world number one after Prakash Padukone had the distinction of being the numero uno men’s badminton player. Rising women’s shuttler PV Sindhu held her ninth position. Saina, who shuttled past former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the final, had said: “I think the consistency with which I am playing is great. I reached three finals in last two months and it’s not easy. Titles makes me hungry. I want to win more titles, I hope to be fit and injury free.”