All England Open: Saina Nehwal strolls into quarter-final

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All England Open: Saina Nehwal strolls into quarter-final

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Amlan Majumdar

03/10/2016

Indian ace Saina Nehwal eased past Busanan Ongbumrungpan from Thailand 21-16, 21-9 in the second round of the 2016 All England Open on Thursday to enter the quarter-final. However, Indian hopes in the men's event were wiped clean after Kidambi Srikanth, Sameer Verma and Sai Praneeth bowed out.

After registering a convincing victory over Michele Li in the opening round yesterday, the 2015 All England Open runner-up continued her successful return from injury with a straight-sets victory over Busanan Ongbumrungpan from Thailand.

Saina, who slipped down to No.3 in the latest world rankings that came out today, started the match with a mistake to give the Thai player the first point of the match. The Indian showed signs of better movement in the next few exchanges to leave behind the memories of the Achilles tendon injury which kept her out of the court for almost two months. Saina continued her style of playing long rallies to keep Busanan Ongbumrungpan from racing ahead with the lead.

Both players followed each other point for point till the break, but a smash from Busanan straight into the net saw the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist going into the break with an 11-10 lead. Glimpses of the heavily-strapped right thigh of Saina Nehwal may have evoked memories of her PBL final match for the fans watching back home, but the 25-year old looked unperturbed as she dominated the exchanges to race to an 18-11 lead. Her 19-year old Thai opponent mounted a mini comeback in the dying stages of the first game to close the gap, but a smash straight at the net and a misjudgement on the line from Busanan saw Saina taking the first game 21-16.

Mistakes continued to flow from Busanan’s racket in the second game as the Thai shuttler looked completely lost against the World No.3. Saina dominated the second game and raced ahead of the Thai shuttler to take 11-4 lead at the break. The cross-court drops, which helped Busanan in the first game, deserted her in the second as she repeatedly found the wrong end of the line. The Indian looked in complete flow with her smashes and made Busanan run all around the court. Although the Thai lass put in a spirited effort, Saina prevailed 21-9 to enter the quarterfinal of the Open.

In the men's section, Sameer Verma disappointed after an initial promise as he lost to Tian Houwei. Verma won the first set but Houwei's experience shone through as he took the next two sets to oust Verma 10-21, 21-12, 21-19. World No. 10 Kidambi Srikanth also crashed out of the tournament on Thursday after losing to fourth seed Kento Momota of Japan 10-21, 13-21. 

Yesterday's hero Sai Praneeth, who had shocked Lee Chong Wei, also bowed out after winning the first set against Hans-Krist Vittinghus with an eventual score of 21-12, 11-21, 16-21.

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