Saina Nehwal cut a happy figure following her straight-game win over former champion and fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon in the women's singles third round match of BWF World Championships 2018 in Nanjing, China, on Thursday.
The bronze medallist from last year's tournament became the first woman to make quarter-final of the world meet eight times. Since 2010, the 29-year-old has never failed to reach the last eight round of the world meet.
Saina faced a tough test against Intanon but the Indian shuttler outclassed her higher-ranked opponent with relative ease — 21-16, 21-19 in 49 minutes.
With some well-executed winners, Saina was dominant throughout most part of the match. However, she faced a few nervy moments towards the end of the second game as Intanon won four points on the trot and made it 19-19.
'Gopi sir played a big role'
The world number 10 revealed she followed coach Pullela Gopichand's inputs blindly during the closing stages of the second game.
"I would say after 19 all, those two points I think Gopi Sir really played a big role there. With those two points, the strategy really mattered, the way he told me what to do and I just followed that I think the game really turned into my favour, but I would say the last two points were all about strategy," Saina said.
She added: "In the previous tournaments, I was getting nervous after 18-18 and giving up matches. But today, I felt I was there, I was picking up shots and I could do it. I'm just happy my form is coming back in a crucial tournament."
She had held on to her nerves and made sure she got the record-setting win, which was also her 10th win over Intanon in 15 meetings.
Saina expects a challenging match against Marin
Saina, who is a win away from clinching another world championships medal, faces another stern test in Friday's quarter-final. She is pitted against reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin.
The Indian shuttler has a positive head-to-head record (5-4) against Marin but the Spaniard, who had been struggling for form in the season, has been playing some of her best badminton in the ongoing tournament.
Marin has crushed Busanan Ongbamrungphan and Sayaka Sato in straight games and is looking hungry for more.
"She [Marin] is a very quick and an aggressive player, I am playing her after a long time. It will be a challenging match for me, not an easy one. She including all the others are Champions and great players; I would like to give my best," Saina spoke of Marin.
Srikanth stunned, Sindhu & Praneeth ease into the quarter-final
Fifth seed Kidambi Srikanth continued to disappoint in the ongoing season as he was knocked out in the third round of men's singles by unseeded Malaysian shuttler Daren Liew in straight games.
On the other hand, third seed PV Sindhu came up with a commanding performance against ninth seed Sung Ji Hyun. She needed only 42 minutes to ease past the South Korean shuttler 21-10, 21-18.
Former Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth made use of a depleted draw and reached the quarter-final. The world number 26 crushed Hans-Kristian Vittinghus in straight games and is now the only men's singles shuttler from India remaining in the fray.
He will face in-form Japanese star Kento Momota in the quarter-final tomorrow.
Following a disappointing day for Indian doubles shuttlers in Nanjing, mixed doubles pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy gave Indian fans a reason to cheer as they stunned seventh seeds Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai of Malaysia to make the last-eight round.