Singapore: Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal showed signs of regaining her form en route to a sensational victory over Chinese world No. 9 He Bing Jiao in the Singapore Open here on Thursday.
The two-time Commonwealth Games gold joined compatriots PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy in the quarter-finals of the tournament.
A bronze medalist from the London Olympics, Saina triumphed 21-19 11-21 21-17 over the fifth-seeded Chinese to make the last eight, her first in a Super 500 event in more than two and a half years .
The 32-year-old from Hyderabad has struggled with a series of injuries and lack of form in recent years, forcing her to skip the selection tests for the Commonwealth Games in April.
In the past three years, Saina’s best performance last year was a semifinal in the Orleans Master Super 100. She had also reached the quarterfinals at Malaysia Masters and Barcelona Spain Masters in 2020.
Two-time Olympic medalist Sindhu and in-form Prannoy also stormed into the quarter-finals after logging battle wins.
Third seed Sindhu held back a tough challenge from Vietnam’s world number 59 Thuy Linh Nguyen 19-21 21-19 21-18 in the women’s singles competition to set up a clash with China’s Han Yue.
Prannoy, the world’s No. 19, took his second win in three weeks over the world’s No. 4 and third-seeded Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei 14-21 22-20 21-18 in an hour and nine match minutes.
The 29-year-old Indian, who wants to break his five-year title drought, will then compete against the Japanese Kodai Naraoka.
The men’s doubles pair of MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila also went into the quarters, with a stunning 18-21 24-22 21-18 victory over the sixth-seeded Malaysian pair of Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin.
A day after an uncertain win over compatriot Kidambi Srikanth, Mithun Manjunath’s series ended with a battling 10-21 21-18 16-21 loss to Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen.
Ashmita Chaliha, who had defeated the Thai Busanan Ongbamrungphan, also could not continue in the tournament and lost 9-21 13-21 to Han Yue from China.
Sindhu started her game on a positive note, but Linh Nguyen grabbed eight straight runs to turn the tables 8-4 and took a 11-9 lead at the break.
Sindhu fought back to build a narrow 16-14 lead, but the Vietnamese shuttler sniffed ahead to take home the opening game.
The second game was an equally tense affair, as the lead changed hands several times before Linh Nguyen again made sure to go into halftime with a two-point tyre.
Sindhu, however, kept breathing down her neck and marched forward from 17-19 with four points at the trot.
Sindhu was the better player in the decider, galloping to a 9-3 lead and keeping her rival at bay despite a hard fight from the Vietnamese.
In the men’s singles, Chou Chen Tien rode through his better defense and shot placement to take an 11-5 lead.
Prannoy equalized his rival beat for beat and had narrowed the lead to 12-14, but he lacked the required precision and enabled the Taiwanese to seal the opening game with an accurate return at the baseline.
Chou again led 10-5 after the change of ends and went into the mid-game break with a healthy 11-8 advantage. However, Prannoy wrote a great comeback at 13-13.
Chou was erratic in the final leg as he went three times long and Prannoy seized the opportunity with a smash to get to one game point. A net error made it 20-20, but the Indian survived with Chou sending the shuttle wide and towards the nets.
In the decider, Chou made another early move with a 6-3 lead before going into halftime with a healthy five-point cushion.
Errors crept into his game, however, as Prannoy drew parity at 13-13, then unleashed a smash and some precise returns to make it 18-15.
Chou made a mini-comeback, but Prannoy crushed it and ended the game after two net errors by his rival.
China’s sixth seed Li Wen Mei and Du Yue ended Pooja Dandu and Arathi Sara Sunil’s stay in the tournament with a 21-12 21-6 win in the women’s doubles.
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