Saina Nehwal in Orleans Masters semi-finals after hard-fought win

The London 2012 bronze medallist saw off a tough challenge from Iris Wang in the quarter-finals. The Indian beat the American in three games.

By Utathya Nag

India’s Saina Nehwal progressed to the women’s singles semi-finals of the Orleans Masters 2021 badminton tournament in France after beating USA’s Iris Wang 21-19, 17-21, 21-19 in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Saina Nehwal will face Line Christophersen in the semis. The Dane shuttler beat Saina Nehwal's fellow countrywoman Ira Sharma 21-11, 21-8 in their quarter-final clash.

The London 2012 bronze medallist was quick to take initiative and raced to an 11-5 lead heading into the first game’s midway break. Wang, though, recovered after the restart and upped the tempo of the match.

The change in speed caught Saina Nehwal off guard as the American shuttler proceeded to level up the score at 16-16 and even went on to take the lead temporarily. The Indian, though, pulled off a clutch and took the final four points to win the first game 21-19.

In the second game, Wang took the fight to Saina Nehwal in the early exchanges and held a slim two-point advantage heading into the breather.

The Indian, however, used her experience and clever shuttle placement well after the restart to catch up. Iris Wang responded well with some attacking badminton of her own to win the second game 21-17 and forced a third game.

The decider witnessed the two go almost toe-to-toe in the early exchanges but with the score 8-8, Saina Nehwal got her nose ahead. Despite a steady onslaught from Wang, Saina Nehwal put on a matured display to see off the game 21-19.

Preceding Saina’s matches, the Indian men’s doubles team of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala edged out French pair Christo Popov and Toma Junior Popov 21-17, 10-21, 22-20 after a close match to qualify for the semis.

Toma Junior Popov, though, would later take the court to knock out India's Kidambi Srikanth in men's singles action. The world No. 47 Frenchman upset Srikanth, currently ranked 14th in the world, 21-19, 21-17.

MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila had an even tougher time against their English opponents and crashed out of the tournament. They lost 21-19, 18-21, 23-21 to Callum Hemming and Steven Stallwood.

In stark contrast, women’s doubles pair Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy had an easy outing. The two convincingly beat the British team of Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith, also the third seeds, 21-14, 21-18 to make their place in the final four.

In the last match of the day involving Indians, mixed doubles pair mixed doubles pair of Dhruv Kapila and Ashwini Ponnappa beat England's Max Flynn and Jessica Pugh 21-13, 21-18 in just under 30 minutes to advance to the semi-finals.