The home crowd got what it desired when the queen and the heir apparent of Indian badminton booked a quarter-finals face-off at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open 2017 today.
Indian Women’s Singles spearheads Saina Nehwal and Pusarla V Sindhu will face each other for the first time in a World Superseries event. In the only match they have played so far – a Grand Prix Gold event three years ago – Nehwal got the better of Pusarla, but with the latter in great form and Nehwal on the way back from a knee injury, the odds are stacked differently.
Nehwal though was impressive against Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong, who had troubled her in the final of the Malaysia Masters in January. The Indian was fast and powerful, giving her opponent barely a glimpse, as she shut her out 21-14 21-12.
Pusarla sliced apart her opponent Saena Kawakami’s challenge in the opening game with her steep smashes, but the match turned in the second and her Japanese opponent battled on level terms. The Indian edged past her thanks to a shuttle that died off the net cord: 21-16 23-21.
Nehwal was cautious about her chances in the quarter-final: “It will take a few tournaments to get better,” she said. “At this moment I can’t expect myself to win tournaments. Whatever comes my way is a bonus. I can’t put too much load on my knee right now.
“I played Sindhu in the Premier Badminton League. It will be a tough match… the shuttles are fast, you just have to play whatever comes about.”
Nehwal conceded that the pressure was off her: “It’s much more easier to play. There’s nothing to lose. It’s tougher when you’re fit. When you’re injured, you don’t care much about what’s going to happen next. I haven’t pushed hard at practice because I’m still coming back from the knee injury. I don’t want to take any chances while training.”
The other quarter-finals will see Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara against compatriot Akane Yamaguchi, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon against Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun; and in the top half; Spain’s Carolina Marin versus Japan’s Minatsu Mitani and Nozomi Okuhara against Akane Yamaguchi.
Mixed Doubles fourth seeds Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying (featured image) shrugged off Indonesia’s Edi Subaktiar/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja 21-11 21-19 and will take on Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Shin Seung Chan next.
The second game was touch-and-go, but thanks to some fine serving by Goh, the Malaysians kept the pressure on the Indonesians.
“It was hard to handle the wind,” said Chan. “Our confidence is high after our (final) performance at the All England. We need to continue to play at that level.”
Goh said they were slowly getting back into rhythm after suffering injuries last season. “He got injured first, and after he recovered, I got injured. We couldn’t get our rhythm. My knee hasn’t healed 100 percent.”
England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock won a narrow 23-21 22-20 verdict over Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang/Hsu Ya Ching to earn a place against Thailand’s Bodin Isara/Savitree Amitrapai.
In Men’s Doubles, top seeds Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (Malaysia) handled the wares of veterans Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia)/Hendra Setiawan with relative ease, coming away victors at 21-10 21-17. The Malaysians next face China’s Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen.
“They’re a new pair, this is the first time we’re playing them. We just tried to stick to our gameplan and it worked,” said the victorious Tan. “Hendra is a legend in Men’s Doubles, so for me it’s about learning new things while facing him.”
Men’s Singles saw the upset of China’s No.5 seed Tian Houwei at the hands of Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei, 21-14 21-12. Wang will face Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, who stormed past India’s Kidambi Srikanth 21-7 21-12.
The Axelsen-Srikanth clash, a repeat of their 2015 final, was expected to be closely fought, but the Dane was on the money from the first point and dominated the proceedings. Unable to get the right length to peg back the attacking Dane, Srikanth never looked like posing a threat.
Axelsen was gracious in victory: “I know the feeling he has. Today I was lucky to play well. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the strongest opponents.
“I haven’t been dealing with injuries, like I think he has. You have to have these blocks of training if you have to improve. My results are just due to hard work.”