Seventh seed Saina Nehwal beat second seed Ratchanok Intanon 28-26, 21-16 at the Australian Open in Sydney on Friday to enter the semi-finals of the Superseries event. Kidambi Srikanth also booked his place in the last four after defeating South Korean shuttler Kwang Hee Heo 21-18, 21-17.
In a tight first game, Saina and Intanon exchanged points till 12-12 before the Thai lost three consecutive points in an attempt to attack, hitting two of them long and one into the net. She made up for these consistent errors on attack with her deceptive play, throughout the match. She was also attempting to catch Saina at the net, a weakness which came to light during the Indian’s first round match.
Saina dug deep, though, and seemed the more hungrier of the two in the tight contest. The game went to the wire, with Intanon gifting match points and then saving them. After seven such opportunities, Saina clinched the game 28-26.
After a level start to the second game, Saina won six straight points to lead 11-7 at the interval. The seventh seed seemed very intent on controlling the rallies, and pushed the Thai around the court. She then targeted a visibly weak Intanon’s forehand, and attacked with gusto to win most of her points. Saina ran away with the game after the interval and there was no doubt about the winner. Intanon attempted a late fight back, saving three match points, but it proved to be too little too late as the Olympic bronze medalist won the game 21-17 to progress to the semi-final.
Earlier, Kidambi Srikanth went past Kwang Hee Heo in a more calm and composed performance than we have seen recently from the Indian. Although the South Korean took an early lead, Srikanth bounced back strongly to level the game at 14-14 before winning the game 21-18. The difference in rankings was very visible and the World No.13 looked at ease against the 84th ranked Kwang Heo. He won the second game 21-17 and progressed to his first semi-final appearance since February.
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