Saina sails into semis but Sindhu (Twitter)
Saina Nehwal hardly broke a sweat on way to her second consecutive semifinal of the season but P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth lost their respective quarterfinals to bow out of the Indonesia Masters badminton tournament on Friday. Eighth seed Saina, who had reached the semifinal last week at Malaysia Masters, beat Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong 21-7 21-18 to make it to the last four of women’s singles.
The two-time Commonwealth Games champion will next face sixth-seeded Chinese He Bingjiao, a player Saina has never faced in her career. Sindhu couldn’t adjust to the speed and precision of three-time Olympic champion Caroline Marin, going down 11-21 12-21 in a lopsided contest.
Srikanth had to settle for a second quarter-final finish after losing 18-21 19-21 to local hero and Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie. Saina enjoyed a good start and galloped to a 11-4 lead at the interval. The Indian continued to dominate proceeding after the interval, moving in quick bursts of points to close out the opening game comfortably.
In the second game, Chochuwong ran to 8-4 lead, but Saina caught up with her at 12-12 before going ahead and shutting the door on her opponent. In 13 meetings, Sindhu has lagged 5-7 against Marin in their head-to-head count, which included defeats at the Rio Olympic and 2018 World Championship finals.
Marin seemed equally unstoppable Friday as she marched to a 6-1 lead with her better court coverage and angled returns. The screams and fist pumps were out right from the start as Sindhu looked for an opening.
The Indian exchanged rallies and made it to 5-8 before Marin grabbed a six-point lead at the break with a cross-court smash and a long return from Sindhu. Sindhu reduced the margin to 10-14 but Marin was going great guns and eventually pocketed the first game when the Indian went wide and long.
In the second game, Sindhu couldn’t keep the shuttle inside the court, allowing Marin to again zoom to a 5-0 lead. A net error from Marin helped Sindhu break the run of points but the Indian continued to commit too many unforced errors. Sindhu failed to see the initiatives during the fast-paced rallies. A huge body smash took Marin to 11-3 at the interval.
Marin was on fire and gathered points at will, moving to 15-5 with another smash. Marin eventually sealed the contest when Sindhu hit the net. In the men’s singles quarterfinals, Srikanth tried to put pressure on his rival but Jonatan was solid in his defence and with the Indian making errors, the Indonesian led 11-7 at the break.
Srikanth caught up with Jonatan at 15-15 after making a few good saves. The Indian then unleashed a straight smash to lead 17-16 for the first time in the match. But Srikanth committed too many unforced errors and also made a misjudgment at the backline to hand over game points to the Indonesian who sealed it with a half smash.
Jonatan raced away to a 6-0 lead before a spinning net shot helped Srikanth to log his first point in the second game. However, the Indonesian managed to lead 11-4 at the breather after Srikanth failed to reach a shot at the forecourt.
After the break, Jonatan maintained the lead to reach 15-8. The Indian grabbed three quick points but a weak return from the backline found the net. Srikanth reduced the deficit to 14-16 by pushing the shuttle at the backcourt. Srikanth brought the equation down to 18-19 before Jonatan made an error of judgment at the backcourt. But the Indonesian made amends immediately as he unleashed a smash to reach match points before grabbing it with another return.