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Saina is lone Indian to advance at Australian Open

Saina Nehwal

Sydney: Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal notched up a hard-fought three-game win over China’s Sun Yu to emerge as the lone Indian survivor in Australian Open Super Series badminton tournament, here today.

World No. 1 Saina continued her rampaging run in world badminton and staved off a challenge from Sun, ranked 9th, 21-19 19-21 21-14 in a match that lasted an hour and 18 minutes in the women’s singles competition.

The Olympic bronze medallist will next take on two-time All England champion Shixian Wang, against whom Saina has a close 6-5 record in 11 meetings.

However, it was curtains for World No. 4 Kidambi Srikanth and 2010 Commonwealth Games champion pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa today.

Fourth seed Srikanth squandered a first-game advantage to go down fighting to China’s Tian Houwei 21-18 17-21 13-21 in men’s singles, Jwala and Ashwini lost to fourth seeded Indonesian pair of Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii 14-21 10-21 in a women’s doubles match.

Saina, who had beaten Sun thrice in the last four meetings, came out with a well-thought strategy as she broke off at 5-5 and entered the interval with a 11-6 lead.

Sun played better after the interval to slowly narrow the gap before clawing back at 18-18, but a determined Saina zoomed ahead to pocket the opening game.

The Indian could have wrapped up the match in the second game itself as she had a huge six-point lead at 13-7 but Sun almost snatched the lead away after levelling the score at 13-13.

An alert Saina held her nerves and moved to 18-15 but she could not stop a fighting Sun, who roared back into the contest with a three-point burst from 18-19 behind.

In the decider, Saina didn’t allow Sun to threaten her in anyway as she led from the start and at one stage was comfortably placed at 12-4.

Though the Chinese tried to erase the deficit, Saina made sure there was no more hiccups and eventually sealed the issue in her favour.

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