Saina Nehwal moved one step closer to defending her title in the Indonesian Open Super Series badminton championship with a fluent 21-9, 21-10 over Japan’s Eriko Hirose in the semi-final on Saturday afternoon.

The top-seeded shuttler from India did her growing reputation no harm in a near-flawless performance against the fourth-seeded and World No. 13 Japanese player.

In the final tomorrow, Saina will take on Sayaka Sato, ranked World No.25, for the first time in her career and starts a clear favourite.

Saina, who reiterated yesterday ahead of the semi-final that she was more concerned about winning tournaments than really focussing on rankings, seems to have hit a purple patch in her career if one takes into consideration that she won the India Open Grand Prix in Chennai, followed it up with the Singapore Open Super Series last week. She is now just one step away from winning the Indonesian Open Super Series.

In a way, Saina also demonstrated the rapid strides she has been making of late in terms of sustaining her level of excellence right through a championship unlike in the past when she used to lose from winning positions.

'Enjoying my game'

“I am fast learning not to concede too many negative points. I am clearly enjoying my game now. Just hope this form will continue for a long time,” she remarked.

Interestingly, Saina’s father, Harvir Singh, too let his daughter focus on the game by not talking to her today. “I just wanted her to think more about the semi-final and was hoping to let things happen,” he remarked after the semi-final victory.

Former All England champion and chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand is equally delighted at Saina’s performance. “This is an unbelievable run for any shuttler. These are clear signs of how Saina has stepped into the big league,” he said.

“What really impressed me is the way she was quickly able to plug the few weaknesses during a match and not unlike in the past when she used to falter after a few unforced errors,” Gopi explained.

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