Top Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth had to toil hard to seal their places in the quarterfinals of the USD 1 million All England Championships on Thursday. While Saina rallied her way to an 8-21 21-16 21-13 win over Denmark’s Line Hjmark Kjaersfeldt in a 51-minute contest, seventh seed Srikanth recovered from a mid-game slump to register a 21-17, 11-21 and 21-12 win over Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie, his first victory over the Indonesian in the last three meetings.
Eighth-seeded Saina is expected to take on her nemesis and two-time champion Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, an opponent who defeated her in last 12 outings, while the 26-year-old Srikanth will face world no 1 Kento Momota of Japan, who has beaten the Indian five times last season.
A 2015 finalist, Saina was blown away by world no 19 Line in the opening game but the experienced campaigner kept her cool to take the match to the decider and eventually come up trumps against her Danish rival.
Earlier, Saina had defeated Scotland’s Kristy Gilmour 21-17 21-18 in 35 minutes in her opening match on Wednesday night. In other matches, former Singapore Open champion B Sai Praneeth’s fight lasted just 35 minutes as he went down 12-21 17-21 to 24-year-old Ng Ka Long Angus in the second round. It was his third loss to the World no 15 from Hong Kong.
On Wednesday, Sameer Verma squandered a first game advantage to go down fighting 21-16 18-21 14-21 to former world champion and world no 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark to bow out of the tournament.
The women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy fought a gruelling battle before losing 21-16 26-28 16-21 to seventh-seeded Japanese pair of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto.
Sikki and Pranaav Jerry Chopra, who is coming back from an injury, lost 21-23 17-21 to Hong King’s Chang Tak Ching and NG Wing Yung in the mixed doubles. The men’s doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy also lost 19-21 21-16 14-21 to the Chinese combination of Ou Xuanyi and Ren Xiangyu.
Srikanth, who had disposed off France’s Brice Leverdez 21-13 21-11 in the opening round, came into the second-round match with a 2-3 head-to-head record against Jonatan.
However, Srikanth’s positive approach earned him a 5-0 lead initially. Jonatan tried to dominate the net and narrowed the led to 5-7 before the Indian rode on his deception and a couple of angled returns to make it an 11-7 advantage in his favour at the first break.
The Indonesian again brought the equation down to 10-12 before Srikanth reeled off three straight points. Srikanth’s tricky play kept Jonatan on his feet as he moved to 19-15 with two smashes and went to game point when his rival hit long.
Two game points were saved by the Indonesian before a mid-court return was punished by Srikanth to grab the bragging rights.
In the second game, Jonatan injected more pace in the rallies and grabbed the first six points before committing a service error. Srikanth was left to do the catch-upp act as Jonatan opened an 11-6 lead at the breather. The Indian couldn’t keep up with the pace of his rival as the second game slipped out of his hand with Jonatan taking the match to the decider after converting nine-game point opportunities.
In the third game, Srikanth added more power to his strokes while Jonatan committed simple errors to trail 2-7. Jonatan then took a medical timeout due to a problem in his left foot. The three minute delay didn’t break the momentum of the Indian as he grabbed a 11-4 advantage at the interval.
Srikanth didn’t allow the game to slip away after the interval even as Jonatan crumbled.
(With PTI Inputs)