“Thank God”, were the words that came to mind after Saina Nehwal beat Julia Pei Xian Wong of Malaysia 21-14, 21-16 to storm into the quarterfinals of the Asian Badminton Championships on Thursday.
Saina got off to a superb start and the first two points the world No. 5 won rattled Julia. The Indian kept firing on all cylinders and hit the Malaysian left, right and centre. With Saina leading 10-5, Julia tried to come back into the game but drove a cross forehand into the net.
While Julia was busy dealing with problems galore, Saina had designed another plot to decimate her. The ace Indian shuttler began to engage Julia in long rallies. Already struggling with net play, Julia was soon confronted with another big problem. She lost her concentration and started hitting wide. A critical judgment error in picking up a flick service cost her the first game.
But in the second game, she was a revelation. The Malaysian made it abundantly clear that she was no pushover. She regrouped and made a strong comeback. She started reading Saina’s strokes well after the Indian opened up a 6-0 lead. This had Saina worried. As a result, the Indian started making unforced errors which helped Julia take the lead.
Trailing 10-11, Saina concentrated hard and pulled level through a quality backstroke. There was no looking back after that. At 20-16, she sealed the match after Julia drove a soft lift into the net.