Saina Nehwal has a tricky match next up in the ongoing China Open, as she faces Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in the quarter finals of the competition on Friday.
Both players come into the match with contrasting form. Saina has had to struggle her way through to the round of eight, which includes a tough victory against Malaysia's Tee Jing Yi in the second round, which went down to the wire. Saina won the match in a gruelling three-set affair with the score reading 21-10, 19-21 and 21-19.
However, Okuhara will be brimming with confidence, having come up with a professional display in her last two matches. Okuhara defeated former world champion Ratchanak Intanon in straight sets in the first round and followed it up with another victory over a Chinese qualifier in the pre-quarters.
Defeating Intanon in straight sets (21-15 and 21-19) reflects the skill of the shuttler who can take on any top player when on song. If Saina is not at her best against the Japanese, she might have to suffer yet another exit after her unimpressive performances in Japan and Denmark.
Saina, who has had some fitness issues, is not moving well on the court, which seems to have been a major reason for her sub-par performance. However, she should draw inspiration from her head-to-head record against Okuhara, who is yet to defeat the Indian shuttler in her career. Saina leads 3-0.
The last meeting between Saina and Okuhara took place in April during the Badminton Asia championship, where the Indian shuttler played some good badminton to emerge triumphant in a three-set affair. However, with Saina going through a lean phase in her career, Okuhara, who is aware of it, shall be keen to take advantage and improve her head-to-head record.
Saina needs to start the quarter finals on a bright note and take it from there, as one has witnessed of late the Indian shuttler's confidence level dips when she trails.
Saina will also be under great pressure to deliver as she is the lone Indian survivor in the China Open.
Where to watch live
Saina Nehwal vs Nozomi Okuhara quarter finals live match is scheduled for 7:30pm local time (5pm IST)
The China Open can be watched live on Star Sports 4 and Star Sports 4HD with live streaming on starsports.com.
Click here for all the live score updates.
*Expected start time could change as per the duration of other matches.