Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal inched closer to her dream of winning the prestigious All England Championship as she advanced to the semifinals with a thrilling three-game victory over former world number one Shixian Wang of China in the women's singles competition in Birmingham on Friday.
The world number three Saina retrieved everything thrown at her and engaged her rival into long rallies to eventually prevail 23-21 19-21 21-16 over Shixian in an hour and 14 minutes match to equal her exploits at the 2010 edition of the $400,000 Super series event.
The Hyderabadi will next take on the winner between fourth seed German Juliane Schenk and eight seed Thai Ratchanok Intanon on Saturday.
However, world number nine Parupalli Kashyap's quest to move further up was cut short by second seed Chen Long as the Chinese notched up a 21-16 21-10 win in the men's singles competition.
In the women's singles match, the 22-year-old Saina opened up a 7-3 lead and went into the breather with a slender at 11-10 advantage in the first game. After the break, Saina and Shixian engaged in a tooth and nail battle to move to 16-16.
Shixian soon moved to 19-16 but Saina caught her at the left side of the court and also forced the Chinese to commit errors to draw parity. Saina dominated the nets to reach 21-20 and a bodyline smash and a deceiving drop helped her to lead 1-0.
In the second game, Shixian rushed to a 6-1 lead quickly but Saina covered the ground to make it 8-8. However, the Chinese reeled off five straight points to go into the breather at 11-8.
The Chinese caught Saina at the forecourt and varied the pace to extent the lead to 13-9. But Saina's down the line smashes, tireless rallies and Shixian's erratic stokes helped her to claw back at 13-13.
The Chinese hit a couple of shuttles wide to allow Saina reach 17-13. The Indian lost a few points when she failed to get the length right and hit wide, A wrong line judgement earned Shixian to claw back at 18-18.
Saina failed to retrieve the shuttle at the forecourt to allow Shixian lead but a courageous net play helped Saina to once again make it 19-19. A terrific down the line smash helped Shixian to go to 20-19 and with Saina hitting out the next meant, Shixian was back into the contest.
Saina was a bit unlucky as serving at 19-20, the Indian should have got a point as Shixian called late to say she was not ready even though she was in the position initially.
The duo has played each other four times with Saina having the upper hand in three occasions and so the decider turned out to be a nail-biting affair. Lagging 3-5 in the decider, Saina lead 6-5 but a few error in her lifts allowed Shixian to turn the table at 7-6. However, a few line calls went against the Chinese as Saina went into the breather leading 11-7.
Two unforced errors and Saina was leading 14-8. Shixian mixed her strokes well, varying the pace constantly to slowly claw back at 12-15. But Saina was focussed and composed and gathered two more points but Shixian was always at her tail. In the end, the Indian kept the pressure on to eventually seal the issue when Shixian found the net.
In the 43-minute men's singles battle, Kashyap had his moments as he lead 11-10 at the break of the first game but the experienced Long moved caught up at 14-14 and then moved ahead to lead 1-0.
In the second game, Long was more dominating and didn't give kashyap any chance to challenge him and sealed his place at the semifinals comfortably in the end.