Saina Nehwal topped her group to march into the women's singles semi-finals while Kidambi Srikanth reached the last-four stage despite losing his last men's singles round robin match at the BWF World Super Series Finals in Dubai on Friday.
World No. 4 Saina clinched a pulsating three-game thriller against Bae Yeon Ju of South Korea 15-21 21-7 21-17. Later in the day, World No. 6 Srikanth gave third-ranked Jan O Jorgensen a hard time before going down 21-17 12-21 14-21. However, both advanced to the knock-out stages. Jorgensen of Denmark finished first in Group B and Srikanth second.
The fight for the two spots was tough with Jorgensen, Srikanth and Japan's Kento Momota winning two out of their three matches but Srikanth did enough to progress. Saina, a 2011 finalist at the prestigious event, qualified for the semis from Group A, ahead of South Korea's Ji Hyun Sung. The Indian played extremely well to win all three matches in a tough pool.
In Friday's match, she bounced back from a game down to beat eighth-ranked Bae. It was a contest between two similar players, both of whom believe in grinding it out in the court and the match begun as expected with long rallies consisting of sharp angled drops and smashes.
Saina brought a sort of new-found aggression in her game as she didn't shy away from attacking the nets and tried to dictate the rallies, pushing Bae to commit errors.
The Indian girl's game plan worked and she took a 10-4 lead. The Korean grabbed two points at the nets and followed it up with a brilliant drop to narrow the gap. But soon Saina's deceiving return found Bae napping and she led 11-8 at the break, well on her way to victory. After the breather, Bae tightened her defence and dug deep in the rallies. She pushed the Indian to make mistakes, to not only claw back at 14-14 but also win the game when Saina hit wide.
In the second game, Saina once again led 6-2 early on. She cut down on her smashes and tried to look for easy points. Bae, meanwhile, played some exceptional shots to narrow it down to 6-6, but the Korean also committed few unforced errors to allow the Indian reel off five straight points and lead 11-6 at the interval.