Birmingham: World No.3 shuttler Saina Nehwal of India won a thrilling encounter against former World No.1 Shixian Wang here at the National Indoor Arena on Friday to reach the women's singles semi-finals at the All England Open Badminton Championships.
However, it was curtains for India in men's singles as Parupalli Kashyap went down to second seed Long Chen of China in straight games. The Chinese won 21-16, 21-10 in 43 minutes to go 4-1 in career head-to-head. Saina, who reached the semis in 2010 also, overcame nemesis Shixian of China in the decider.
The Hyderabadi beat the sixth seed 23-21, 19-21, 21-16 in a marathon Super Series Premier match which lasted one hour and 14 minutes. This is the fourth time Saina beat Shixian in five career meetings. In the process, Saina also ensured the exit of all Chinese women from singles competition. Saina dictated proceedings from the start as her Chinese opponent was uncomfortable against her. This was obvious as the Hyderabadi had won their last three encounters.
Shixian looked nervous in the beginning but she fought back to not just equalise but also take a crucial 19-16 lead over Saina in the first game. But the Indian showed sheer grit by not just coming back but also saving a gamepoint before taking the game. Saina used body smashes at the right time and jump smashes with exquisite placement at crucial junctures of the match while Shixian, though not in the best of form lately, displayed superb skill at the net to take away vital points.
The sixth seed started aggressively in the second game as she took a 6-1 lead before Saina closed the gap. The Chinese, again with the deft touches, took a lead of 13-8 but Saina's ability to retrieve and never-say-die attitude brought her back into the game as she took nine consecutive points to go 17-13 up. But Shixian had the last word in the game as she won the last two points of the game.
The Chinese girl started well in the third but Saina won seven consecutive points from 6-7 down to lead 13-7 from where she never looked back and booked her spot in the last four. The Indian second seed next faces Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon or German Juliane Schenk Saturday.