Saina, Srikanth reach semis of Australian Open

Sydney: Saina Nehwal dug deep for a fighting win over Thai rival Ratchanok Intanon while Kidambi Srikanth too continued his good run to make the semifinals of the USD 750,000 Australian Super Series Badminton tournament here today.

In an exciting quarterfinal between Olympic bronze medallist Saina and 2013 World Champion Ratchanok, it was the seventh seeded Indian who managed to upstage the second seed 28-26 21-16 after a 56-minute hard-fought women’s singles battle.

Saina will next take on the winner of the match between fourth seed Wang Yihan and eighth seed Tai Tzu Ying.

In the men’s singles, World No. 13 Srikanth disposed off Korea’s Kwang Hee Heo 21-18 21-17 in 36 minutes.

The Guntur lad will next take on Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus tomorrow. The Indian beat him twice last year while losing once at the 2014 French Open.

In an intense opening game, Saina’s resilience against Ratchanok’s guile was on display as the duo fought for every point till the end.

In an extraordinary long first game, Saina held on to her nerves in the face of some awesome badminton played by Ratchanok who used her touch to good effect.

After fighting her way to a 18-16 lead, Saina saw the advantage slip as Ratchanok clawed back. There after, it was anybody’s game as every time Saina grabbed a lead, Ratchanok came up with a cross court dribble or a disguised drop or acute angled smash to keep herself in contention.

However, in the end, it was Saina who emerged on top riding on a net error by the Thai girl and a brilliant low angled return which landed just inside the backline.

In the second game, Saina once again opened up a 11-7 lead at the break and continued to dominate the proceedings after the interval as she moved to 15-8. Ratchanok seemed to lack the urgency shown in the first game as she failed to reach for the returns.

At 18-9, Saina lost a video referral challenge and then saw Ratchanok grab a couple of more points. She challenged another similar line call and won it this time to move to 19-12.

Saina conceded another point at net but a smash gave her seven match points. Ratchanok saved three points before another smash earned her another a semifinal spot.

In the men’s singles, Srikanth took time to understand the game of the Korean as he lagged behind 0-5 early on but he soon fought back from 2-9 and 9-14 down to turn the tables and grab the opening game.

In the second game, Srikanth was more dominating as he opened up a 11-6 lead and even though the Korean caught up to make it 12-12 and again at 16-16, the Indian managed to see him off.