Saina Nehwal asserted her credentials as top contender for the world title with a clinical show against her Asian Games nemesis Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong in the pre-quarterfinals of the world badminton championship in London on Thursday.
The sixth seed Indian, who hasn't spent an hour on the court collectively in her two matches so far, was grabbing points at will against a struggling Yip. Trailing 21-3, 13-5, the 14th seed ultimately throw in the towel and conceded the match.However, that shouldn't take anything away from Saina, who has put in more than four weeks of training before the tournament and the effort can be seen in her movements and control over drops and flicks.
The improved backhand also came into play as the Commonwealth Games gold-medallist pocketed the first game in just nine minutes, toying with her opponent with cross-court drops and deceptive net dribbles.
With two easy rounds and a bye in the first, Saina's first real test is expected to come in the quarterfinals where she will face the winner of the tie between third seed Xin Wang and Petya Nedelcheva of Bulgaria.
However, chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand was not too worried about the lack of match practice. "Saina not having a good match under her belt should not be a big problem. Her strokes are flowing really well and the work we have done in training is showing," he told Hindustan Times.
Ajay flatters to deceive
In the men's singles pre-quarterfinals, Mumbai boy Ajay Jayaram won the first game against defending champion and sixth seed Chen Jin of China but then lost steam and the match 18-21, 21-12, 21-11 in one hour and three minutes.
The 24-year-old, playing in his maiden world championship, was playing catch-up throughout the first game as well but stepped up at the business end to clinch the opener in 22 minutes.
Earlier, the mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and V Diju lost 21-9, 21-15 against fifth seed Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.