Defending champion Saina Nehwal survived a scare in her campaign opener as she struggled past Indonesia’s Lindaweni Fanetri in an energy-sapping three game thriller at the Indonesian Super Series Premier here on Tuesday.

World No.2 Saina had to play out of her skin against the 14th ranked Fanetri, who posed a huge threat to the Indian before surrendering 17-21 29-27 13-21 in an hour and 14 minutes in a women’s singles first round match at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno Stadium here.

The 23-year-old from Hyderabad will take on the winner of the match between Sayaka Takahashi of Japan and Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk in the pre-quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Saina, seeded second, relied on her smashes, while Fanetri dominated the net play.

In the opening game, Fanetri was leading 5-2 initially and it was only from tied 9-9 that Saina could get ahead of the Indonesian even though she was always breathing down her neck.

Fierce battle

The 24-year-old Indonesian, egged on by the local crowd, raised her game and engaged in a fierce battle and went into the breather with a slender 11-9 advantage in the second game.

Saina battled on and turned the tables at 15-15 but even though she was just two points away from pocketing the match, Fanetri clawed back at the right time and eventually roared back into the contest after an intense fight till the end.

However, in the decider, Saina showed why she is considered to be one of the best in the business. While the gruelling second game took a toll on Fanetri, Saina’s fitness came to her rescue as she zoomed ahead to a 5-0 lead.

Thereafter the Indian just didn’t allow the Indonesian to come close and at the end won the issue comfortably.

In the mixed doubles, World No. 29 pair of Tarun Kona and Ashwini Ponnappa prevailed over Praveen Jordan and Vita Marissa, ranked 30, 21-18 14-21 25-23 in a 53-minute engrossing battle. The Indian pair will face the seventh seeded Polish combo of Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba in the pre-quarterfinals on Wednesday.

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