Australian Open badmintonSaina continued her march in the Australian Open Super Series badminton tournament. All matches in every category are tough because of the presence of all top stars in the prestigious tournament. For India’s ace shuttler and world no.1 Saina Nehwal, the second round match against Chinese Sun Yu was a hard grind. In a match that went on for 78 minutes, Saina just scraped through the first game and then lost the second as Sun Yu mounted pressure. However, the Indian was alert in the decider and went through to the quarterfinal to set up a clash with another competent Chinese Wang Shixian, a double All-England champion. While Saina sailed ahead, Indian challenge ended at Sydney with defeats of Kidambi Srikanth and women’s double pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. After all matches concluded on Thursday, the quarterfinal line-up has emerged in every category.

On Thursday, Saina Nehwal played her second round match against China’s Sun Yu. It wasn’t an easy match as the Chinese fought tooth-and-nail. Saina, who had a 3-1 record against Sun Yu was challenged by the Chinese from the time the match started. At 5-5 in the first game, Saina played to a thought-out strategy and led 11-6 at the break. When they resumed the game after interval, it was Sun, who began playing better as she clawed back to bring the score at 18-18. After this, Saina bounced back with a determined show to take the first game 21-19. In the second game, Saina shot off to a 13-7 lead and should have finished the match with such a huge lead. But not to be outdone so soon, the Chinese produced a thundering performance and completely wiped off the lead. Yet again, Saina played some powerful shots to make it 18-15. Sun fought hard and outlasted the Indian to snatch the second game 21-19. In the decider, however, Saina didn’t allow Sun many chances and opened a 12-4 lead. Though sun kept fighting, Saina was alert as she pocketed the third game to finish victorious at 21-19, 19-21, 21-14. On Friday, Saina has another tough Chinese playing against her in Wang Shixian for a semifinal berth.

India’s challenged faded away in the men’s singles, when Kidambi Srikanth lost to China’s Tian Houwei 21-18 17-21 13-21. After winning the opening game, Srikanth couldn’t put up against the vastly improved Houwei and lost both games. In women’s doubles too, India’ pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa lost tamely to the fourth seeded Indonesians Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii 14-21 10-21.

In other matches that decided the quarterfinal line-ups in each category, most seeded players appeared on course. Men and women’s Chinese top seeds, Chen Long and Li Xuerui won their matches with ease to sail through to quarterfinals. Other men’s singles seeded players, who entered the quarterfinals were; Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki Vincent, England’s Rajiv Ouseph, Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen, China’s Wang Zhengming, Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana and Denmark’s viktor Axelsen, who had shocked no.2 seed Lin Dan in the second round. Among women, the quarterfinal entrants were; Canada’s Michelle Li, China’s Wang Yihan, Spain’s world champion Carolina Marin and Koreans Bae Yeon Ju and Sung Ji Hyun. Doubles top seeds in each category also reached the quarterfinals. They included; mixed doubles Chinese pair of Xu Chen/Ma Jin; men’s doubles Koreans Yoo Yeon Seong/Lee Yong Dae and Japanese women’s doubles combo of Ayaka Takahashi/Misaki Matsutomo.