Indian ace Saina Neval played an exciting three-game victory over American Iris Wang to qualify for the semifinals of the women’s singles at the Orleans Masters Badminton Tournament here on Friday.
This is the first semifinal in two years for a world number. 20 Saina, who desperately wants to earn ranking points to reach her four Olympic Games in Tokyo. Her last semifinal participation was in January 2019 in the Indonesia Masters 500 tournament she won.
The fourth-placed Indian, who withdrew from the all-England championship last week due to injury, had to dig deep to win a 21-19 17-21 21-19 victory over the world number. 36 Wang in an exhausting quarterfinal match that lasted exactly an hour.
The London Olympic medalist will face the Dane Lines Christophersen or his compatriot Ira Sharma for a place in the final of the Super 100 event, which is part of the revised BWF Olympic qualifying competitions.
Ashwin Ponapa and N Sikki Reddy, bronze medalists in eighth place, also entered the final four stages of the women’s doubles competition after scoring a stunning 21-14 21-18 victory over England’s third-placed duo. Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith.
The world does not. 25 Indian couples will face the first-class Thai combination of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.
The Indian couple of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Vardhan Gud Panjala outsmarted the world number. 47 French duo by Hristo Popov and Toma Junior Popov 21-17 10-21 22-20 in an hour and three minutes to reach the semifinals.
The unknown Indian duo will face England’s Callum Heming and Stephen Stalwood for a place in the final on Saturday.
The English pair had completed the campaign of the seventh Indian seeds MR MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila 21-19 18-21 23-21 in the quarterfinals.
Saina handed out a compact game as she led 11-5 in the first interval, but Wang narrowed the gap to 13-15 after the break. The American turned five consecutive points to take a lead of 18-16.
However, Saina sealed the opening game with four consecutive points.
The second match was a close one, as both players fought hard before Saina took a slim 13-11 lead in the middle of the game, but the determined Wang went ahead and roared again in the race.
In the decision Saina led 6-4 and then 12-8. The Indian held his nose forward, though Wang was breathing down his neck. Saina grabbed three match points, squandered two of them before finishing the match.