As soon as the Hong Kong Open draw was released, Indian badminton fans noticed Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu in the same half of the draw, hence a potential semifinal clash was on the cards. But it all came crashing down as Saina lost to Cheung Ngan Yi 8-21, 21-18, 19-21 in the quarterfinal on Friday. However, Sindhu, who defeated Liang Xiaoyu, progressed into the semifinals.
Sindhu, however, showed some great character to win the match 21-17, 21-23, 21-18 in 79 minutes.
There is something about PV Sindhu and her confidence level, which helped her come up with some amazing badminton, especially in the final game, to win the thrilling encounter.
Liang, despite coming with a poor head-to-head record, losing both her previous matches to Sindhu, was not easily bogged down by the in-form Indian, who was tested by Liang. Had Sindhu not taken her game to the next level in the second half of the final game, it could have been all curtains for the China Open winner.
The match did start on a tight note, with both players not giving any inch to the other. Judging by the way the two shuttlers were playing, a close match was on the cards. Sindhu, as the game progressed, gradually asserted her dominance, playing some drop shots at the net and quick shots at the body, which helped her win the first game 21-17.
The second game of the quarterfinals was no different. It was not easy for Sindhu. The game was heading towards an interesting phase, with Liang coming back strongly and the two were tied at 18-18.
Then the match was about nerves for both the shuttlers, as the second game became even tighter at 20-20, and then to 21-21. With two back-to-back points, the game was in Liang's bag to take the quarterfinals to the decider.
After losing her first game of the competition, Sindhu was determined to change gears, and she ran into a lead of 4-1.
The quality of competition was quite good, but it was Liang, who looked in superb form, playing some wonderful shots to stun Sindhu. Liang took a five-point lead, 11-6. With momentum on Liang's side, she gained confidence, scoring some crucial points to turn that into a 14-9 lead.
And just when one thought Liang is in a comfortable position, Sindhu showed great character to come back and take 16-15 lead. Finally, Sindhu managed to win the game 21-18 — and the match — to move into the semifinals of the Hong Kong Open.
After Sindhu booked her semifinals slot, all eyes were on Saina with the hope of meeting Sindhu in the last four.
Saina did not look confident in the initial phases of the match. As the game progressed, Ngan was dominating Saina at the net and the baseline. Saina, to be fair, did not look in great fitness against the Hong Kong player, who won 21-8. This Hong Kong Open was only her second competition following her knee surgery in August.
However, the Indian shuttler looked much better in the second game, where she was unleashing her powerful smashes and also some smart play at the net to help her secure 7-5 lead. But six straight points from Ngan helped the Hong Kong shuttler take lead at 11-6.
The game was tilting both ways in a matter of minutes as Saina earned five straight to make it 11-11. With some wonderful cross court shots and deft touches, Saina took the lead to 19-17 and finally won the game 21-18 to take the quarters contest to a decider.
There was an air of confidence about Saina after winning the second game. She was using all her experience to outshine Ngan, who was trailing 4-9. The competitive nature of Ngan was on show as she sprung back to 9-9, winning five straight points.
Ngan got a four-point advantage, 15-11, after Saina made some errors at the net. Ngan was inching closer to victory after scoring three points on a trot again. The pressure was building on both the players as Ngan made some unforced errors and Saina cut the lead to one point 17-18.
Eventually, Ngan won the match, clinching the deciding game 21-19 to set up a date with PV Sindhu in the semifinal.