Officially crowned the world no. 1 in the BWF rankings, Saina Nehwal on Thursday continued her rampaging run with a dominating straight-game win over Chinese qualifier Xue Yao to reach the quarterfinals of the Malaysia Open Super Series premier badminton.
Saina, who was ensured of the world no. 1 during her exploits at the India Open triumph, defeated Yao 21-13 21-9 in a lop-sided 30-minute women’s singles to set up a clash with another Chinese shuttler, Sun Yu, ranked 15th in the world. However, it was curtains for Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap and Indonesian Masters winner H S Prannoy in men’s singles competition.
Kashyap, who slipped to world number 17 today following a dip in performance due to a spate of injuries, suffered a 10-21 6-21 defeat to world no. 1 Chen Long of China. Prannoy, who jumped three places to 14th after his giant-killing exploits at the India Open, went down to two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China 15-21 14-21 in another men’s singles match that lasted 52 minutes.
Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, too, suffered a loss in the second round, going down fighting 23-21 8-21 17-21 to sixth seeded Indonesian pair of Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii in a close to an hour match.
Interestingly, it was Yao who had ended Saina’s campaign at the 2014 Malaysia Open but on Thursday the Indian just brushed her aside, riding on her better foot movement and powerful array of strokes.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina hardly broke a sweat against Yao in the first round as she led from start to finish. The closest the Chinese could come was 11-12 but the Indian soon changed gears and marched ahead to lead 1-0. In the second game, Saina broke off at 3-3 and slowly but steadily surged ahead to eventually close it without much ado at the Putra Stadium.
Up next is Sun, against who Saina has a 2-1 record. Sun had beaten the Indian during the 2013 China Open. A win on Friday will pit Saina against either world no. 2 Li Xuerui or fifth seed Wang Yihan, whom she had beaten at the All England championship last month.