Saina Nehwal warmed up for her much-awaited ‘grudge’ quarterfinal match against World No. 2 Wang Yihan with a steady display over Thailand’s Natcha Saengchote. Saina ended her three-year wait to get past the second round of the Yonex Sunrise India Open with an expected victory that came in 35 minutes.
Saina, who has a 1-7 head-to-head record against Yihan, is yet to beat the Chinese in a completed match. An injured Yihan had conceded their 2012 Denmark Open encounter when trailing 12-21, 7-21. In fact, Saina’s last loss also came against Yihan in the Swiss Open quarterfinals last month.
Earlier, Yihan was tested by Japan’s Shizuka Uchida who led 5-3 in the decider. Shizuka, ranked 123 and conqueror of Yihan in their only previous encounter, however, could not maintain her grip.
Yihan bounced right back to win nine points and eventually prevailed 21-8, 13-21, 21-12 in 56 minutes.
After the second round of the $250,000 event, Saina had only P. Kashyap for company after the rest of the home challengers on view were sent packing.
Kashyap settled a score with compatriot R.M.V. Gurusaidutt in three games to set up a clash with World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei. On a day when Sourabh Verma, Trupti Murgunde and Sayali Gokhale, along with the duo of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa, lost to higher ranked opponents, Japan’s Takuma Ueda knocked out men’s eighth seed Wan Ho Son of Korea 12-21, 21-15, 21-19.
Saina broke a jinx on this day. As the top seed, she was beaten by Japan’s Ai Goto in the first round of the inaugural edition in 2011, by Korea’s Youn Joo Bae in 2012 and Indonesia’s Belaetrix Manuputi in 2013 — all in straight games. But this time, as the eighth seed, the Indian hope managed to play to her seeding with two easy victories.
Against Natcha, ranked 101 in the world, Saina took time to settle down. But once she found her rhythm, the match could not last beyond 35 minutes.
In contrast, Kashyap lost his rhythm in the second game after racing away with the first. In the final game, Gurusaidutt was expected to press hard to complete a hat-trick of victories over Kashyap.
He led 7-3, but at this stage, Kashyap changed gears and attacked more to win the next nine points. Thereafter, Gurusaidatt could barely put up a fight.
The results (second round, involving Indians):
Men’s singles: P. Kashyap bt R.M.V. Gurusaidutt 21-15, 16-21, 21-11; Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Sourabh Verma 21-9, 21-6.
Women’s singles: Saina Nehwal bt Natcha Saengchote (Tha) 21-15, 21-12; Yeon Ju Bae (Kor) bt Sayali Gokhale 21-15, 21-8; Aprilla Yuswandari (Ina) bt Trupti Murgunde 21-13, 21-12.
Women’s doubles: Christinna Pedersen & Kamilla Tytter Juhl (Den) bt Dhanya Nair & Mohita Sahdev 21-4, 21-9; Qian Tian & Yunlei Zhao (Chn) bt G. Jwala & Ashwini Ponnappa 21-13, 21-19.