Nagpur, March 26, 2021
All eyes were on Saina Nehwal on Friday. On the court, she was playing a crucial quarter-final of the Orleans Masters in France and off the court, a biopic on her life was released in the country.
In the end, it turned out to be a memorable day for Saina. Not only she reached the semi-final in Paris, her movie was also praised by the critics and appreciated by the fans all over India.
It was not easy, though, for Saina. She needed to dig deep to overcome the challenge of USA’s Iris Wang. Saina carved out a nail-biting three-game victory to advance to the women’s singles semis.
Fourth seed Saina notched up a hard-fought 21-19, 17-21, 21-19 victory over world No. 36 Wang in a gruelling quarter-final that lasted exactly an hour. The world No. 20 won both the games at 21-19 as she was stretched to the limits by the young American.
It is the first semis in two years for Saina. The London Olympics bronze medallist is desperate to accumulate ranking points to make the cut for her fourth Olympics in Tokyo. The Hyderabadi’s last semis appearance was in January, 2019 in the Indonesia Masters 500 tournament which she had won.
For a spot in the final on Sunday, Saina will lock horns with Denmark’s Line Christophersen, who defeated young Indian Ira Sharma in straight games.
However, it was a disappointing day for Kidambi Srikanth. The top seed was shocked by a local unseeded youngster Toma Junior Popov 19-21, 17-21. The former world No. 1 is racing against the time to qualify for the Tokyo Games and today’s result will certainly put lot of pressure on him.
The Indian doubles players did extremely well on Friday particularly the performance of Ashwini Ponnappa was outstanding.
Eighth seeds and Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Ashwini and N Sikki Reddy entered the semis of the women’s doubles after pulling off a sensational 21-14, 21-18 victory over England’s third seeded duo of Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith.
The world No. 25 Indian pair of Ashwini and Sikki will run into top seeded Thailand duo of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.
In an exciting men’s doubles quarter-final, the Indian pair of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala edged past world no. 47 French duo of Christo Popov and Toma Junior Popov 21-17, 10-21, 22-20 in 63 minutes.
The unheralded Indian duo will clash with England’s Callum Hemming and Steven Stallwood on Saturday.
The English pair had ended the campaign of Indian seventh seeds MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila 21-19, 18-21, 23-21 in the quarters.
4-Saina Nehwal bt Iris Wang (USA) 21-19, 17-21, 21-19
Ira Sharma lost to Line Christophersen (Denmark) 11-21, 8-21
1-Kidambi Srikanth lost to Toma Junior Popov (France) 19-21, 17-21
Krishna Prasad Garaga-Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala bt Christo Popov-Toma Junior Popov (France) 21-17, 10-21, 22-20
7-MR Arjun-Dhruv Kapila lost to Callum Hemming-Steven Stallwood (England) 19-21, 21-18, 21-23
8-Ashwini Ponnappa-N Sikki Reddy bt 3-Chloe Birch-Lauren Smith (England) 21-14, 21-18
Dhruv Kapila-Ashwini Ponnappa bt Max Flynn-Jessica Pugh (England) 21-13, 21-18
4-Saina Nehwal vs Line Christophersen (Denmark)
Krishna Prasad Garaga-Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala vs Callum Hemming-Steven Stallwood (England)
8-Ashwini Ponnappa-N Sikki Reddy vs 1-Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Rawinda Prajongjai (Thailand)
Dhruv Kapila-Ashwini Ponnappa vs Niclas Nohr-Amalie Magelund (Denmark).