Saina Nehwal marked the day of the release of her biopic in theatre with a win at Orleans Masters as she made the semi-finals of the tournament along with two doubles pairs in Ashwini Ponnappa–N Sikki Reddy and Krishna Prasad Garaga-Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala. Saina Nehwal registered a fighting three-game win against USA’s Iris Wang while Ashwini-Sikki got a two-game win over their English opponents. Garaga-Panjala also fought their way against a French pair to reach the last four on Friday.
Saina won her second straight three-game match as she took three games to beat her last 16 opponent as well. It took Saina exactly an hour to get past Wang 21-19, 17-21, 21-19. Next up for Saina will most likely be Denmark’s Line Christophersen unless her compatriot Ira Sharma can pull off a big upset and set up an all-Indian semi-final.
Eight seeded Ashwini and Sikki beat England’s third seeds Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith 21-14, 21-18 in 42 minutes. They will now face Thai top seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Ashwini and Sikki raced to a 4-0 lead in the first game before their opponents scored four consecutive points to level the scores. The two teams then went toe-to-toe until the score was eighth-all, after which Ashwini and Sikki won four consecutive points to lead 12-8. There was no turning back for the Indians after that as they maintained their dominance and took the game 21-14.
The second game was a far closer affair with the score at the interval reading 11-9 in the Indians’ favour. Ashwini and Sikki won another point after the restart after which Birch and Smith won three consecutive points to make it 12-12. The two teams exchanged points after that until Ashwini and Sikki managed to take a two-point lead at 17-15. They maintained that position, and eventually took the second game 21-18.
The other Indian pair, Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala, beat France’s Christo Popov and Toma Junior Popov 21-17, 10-21, 22-20 in an hour and three minutes.
In the semi-finals, they now face England’s Callum Hemming and Steve Stallwood, who beat Indian seventh seeds M.R. Arjun and Dhruv Kapila in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Later on Friday, Indian top seed Kidambi Srikanth plays his men’s singles semi-final match against Frenchman Toma Junior Popov, Ira is up against Christophersen and the mixed doubles pair of Dhruv and Ashwini take on English pair Max Flynn and Jessica Pugh.
(With IANS inputs)