Spectators at the Siri Fort Complex savoured some delicious strokes laid out by Saina Nehwal on a stuffy Friday evening.
The world No. 5 dished out some of the best smashes and hard-hitting strokes in her repertoire — and garnered quite a few points on drop shots — to show Malaysia’s Mew Choo Wong the door 21-5, 21-13 in the quarterfinal of the Asian Badminton Championships.
Saina kept her opponent away from the net with an array of quality half-smashes, which earned her a four-point lead at the start of the first game. Leading 8-2, the Indian made Wong run around like a headless chicken and locked points with some perfect drops at the corners.
Wong tried hard to draw Saina at the net but the Indian knew exactly what to do. Saina pushed Wong away from the net and then sprung a surprise by deftly placing a soft drop that had Wong gasping.
The Malaysian then attempted to collect points on counter-play, but nothing seemed to work for her. Saina, meanwhile, extended the lead to 11-2, executing her game plan to perfection. She took great care in keeping Wong away from the net even as she used her sizzling cross-hand to devastating effect.
With Wong trailing 14-4, the Malaysian started stretching to cover the court, but that didn't help as Saina kept rolling out some deft placements. With the pressure building, Wong failed to clear the shuttle to give the last point of the first game to Saina on a platter.
The second game was a replica of the first. Saina continued directing shots at her opponent's body and then won points with drop shots. At 11-5, Wong’s concentration, it seemed, went for a toss. She hit a weak backhand volley, which couldn’t clear the net.
The Malaysian then made another attempt at getting back into the game, engaging Saina in long rallies. This time around, the Indian fell for the ploy and lost a point. But that was the only time she was caught on the wrong foot. Finally, at 20-12, Wong capitulated and fired a wide, signalling Saina’s entry into the semifinals.