Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal remained on course for her second title of the season as she reached the semifinals of the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold with a straight-game victory over Sapsiree Taerattanachai in Bangkok today.

Top seed Saina played long rallies and used her effective smashes to stave off the challenge from the hosts eighth seed Taerattanachai 21-10 22-20 in the women’s singles competition.

The world number five, who is one of the medal prospects for India at the London Olympics, will next take on the winner of the match between Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara and third seed Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand tomorrow.

Saina produced a dominant show in the first game as she reeled off eight straight games to open up a 8-0 lead. The Indian didn’t give any chance to her rival and held her fort to lead the match 1-0.

In the second game, Saina had opened a narrow 4-2 lead but Taerattanachai registered six straight points to grab the lead. Saina then slowly and steadily narrowed the gap and caught up with the Thai at 19-19 before sealing the issue in her favour at the CU Sport Complex.

Saina had defended her title at the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold in March in Basel, Switzerland early this year.

“Overall it went off well, Saina started off well in the first game, but in the second game, towards the beginning, she hurried up a bit. She started attacking more and made many errors in the bargain. But eventually she rallied and got back into the match,” National coach and Saina’s mentor Pullela Gopichand told PTI from Bangkok.

Asked about Saina’s next opponent, Porntip of Thailand, who is seeded third, Gopichand said: “She is a tricky player and with the home crowd behind her, she might prove to be a tough opponent. But overall the way Saina has been playing in the last three days, I think it will be a good match.”

Saina is now the only Indian left in fray as all others crashed out with contrasting defeats in the men’s singles today.

Rising shuttler Sourabh Verma, seeded 12th, couldn’t put up any fight and succumbed 6—21 8—21 to Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro, while his brother Sameer Verma went down 16—21 13—21 to Huan Gao of China.

Sai Praneeth B also could not cross the quarterfinal hurdle and bowed out with a 15—21 17—21 loss to Chinese Chen Yuekun in a 38-minute match.

However, Gopichand said despite the losses, it was still a very positive sign for Indian badminton.

“Overall, I am happy with the way they played. Three of them came this far and I think it is a very positive sign.

They will move up in the coming days,” he said.

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