Jakarta: It was a historic day for Indian badminton as Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu entered the women’s singles semifinals of the Asian Games here on Sunday.
World No. 10 Saina became the first Indian woman shuttler to make it to the last-four stage of the Games as she proved too good for Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon 21-18, 21-16 in the quarterfinals.
The win also meant that India’s 36-year-wait for a medal in badminton singles at the Games has come to an end. Syed Modi won a bronze in men’s singles at the 1982 edition in New Delhi.
Sindhu doubled the joy later in the day by beating another Thai Nitchaon Jindapol 21-11, 16-21, 21-14. India are assured of at least two bronze medals, thus improving on their tally of a single bronze from the women’s team event at Incheon in 2014.
Sindhu had it easy in the opening game and clinched it 21-11. The World No. 3 was outplayed by Jindapol in the second game as she took it 21-16 to force a decider.
In the third game, Sindhu trailed 4-7 at one stage, but the Indian ace fought and went into the break with a four-point cushion (11-7). Sindhu made sure she remained in front and closed out the tie 21-14.
Sindhu will take on Japan's Akane Yamguchi in the semifinals on Monday. The battle between the world No. 3 and No. 2 promises to a mouth-watering clash.
Saina had beaten world No. 5 Intanon in straight games in the pre-quarterfinals of the recent World Champions at Nanjing, China, too. But the weight of expectations of a medal seemed to have played on her mind as she made too many unforced errors in the early part of the opening game.
Intanon got off to a fine start as she led 5-1 and was looking in total control at 12-14. But Saina made a spirited fightback to draw level at 17-17. Though Intanon used a perfect drop to regain lead, a superb smash from Saina saw her make it 18-18. The London Olympic bronze medallist won the last three points to clinch the first game 21-18.
The momentum was with the Hyderabadi woman and she took a 4-1 lead in the second game. It soon became a neck-to-neck affair as Intanon bounced back and reduced the lead to 7-8. But Saina regained her grip on the contest and wrapped up the tie 21-16 to script a memorable win.
“I wanted to fight till the end. Initially I wasn’t moving well. But then I opened up and started picking those tough shots. She wanted to win the medal badly,” said Saina after the match.
The 28-year-old was not aware of creating history though. “I did not know (that she was the first Indian woman to make it to the singles semifinals),” she quipped when pointed out.
Saina will meet world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei’s in the semifinals. “It’s going to be a tough match. The last time I played her I gave her a tough fight,” added a visibly delighted Saina.