Saina Nehwal advanced to the quarter-finals of the BWF Badminton Championships for the eighth successive time — the first woman to do so in the history of the sport but the Indian star will have her hands full as she comes up against Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain in the last eight on Friday.
In an eagerly awaited third-round match of the World Badminton Championships on Thursday, the 28 year old Indian shuttle queen made light of her 10th seeding, and sent the No 4 seed, 23-year-old Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, packing with a richly deserved 47-minute 21-16, 21-19 victory, to earn the right to meet another former world champion Carolina Marin of Spain in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Seventh-seeded Marin, who had won the world crown in 2014 and 2015 and also bagged the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, made the last-eight grade with a storming 21-7, 21-13 triumph over Japanese left-hander Sayaka Sato. Having fully recovered the foot speed that made her such a terror between 2014 and 2016, the Spanish southpaw looked in ominous touch as she hacked down the 15th seeded Japanese in just two minutes over the half-hour mark.
Saina’s compatriot, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, also looked far more focused and determined than she had been in the course of her recent run in the Indonesia and Thailand Open. The gangling 5’ 10” Hyderabadi responded well to the courtside exhortations of Coach Pullela Gopichand, to recover from a 3-10 deficit in the second game against South Korea’s No 9 seed, Sung Ji Hyun, and run out a 21-10, 21-18 winner in 42 minutes.
Having played as well as she did on Thursday, the third-seeded Sindhu, the Olympic silver medallist and Glasgow World Championship runner-up, would be eagerly looking forward to Friday’s quarter-finals, which will feature a repeat of last year’s World Championship final, in which she had suffered a heart-breaking 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 loss in 110 minutes to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara.