| PV Sindhu, who defeated defending champion Yihan Wang |
Calcutta/Guangzhou: Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Parupalli Kashyap underlined India’s prowess as badminton’s emerging superpower with convincing victories to reach the quarter finals of the World Badminton Championship in Guangzhou on Thursday.
This is the first time India will have three representatives in the last eight stage of the prestigious world championship and are just one victory away from ensuring a medal. While Saina’s entry into the quarter finals was expected, Asian Junior champion P V Sindhu and London Olympics quarter-finalist Kashyap punched way above their weight to upset higher ranked players in the pre-quarterfinals.
Sindhu on Thursday registered a stunning upset victory over defending champion Yihan Wang of China to join Saina in the women’s singles quarter finals. In the men's singles, Kashyap also recorded an upset victory over world No. 6 Yun Hu of Hong Kong 21-13, 21-16 in a 37-minute contest to enter the third round.
Sindhu, ranked 12th, took 55 minutes to send her world No. 5 five and London Olympics silver medallist opponent packing by winning the third-round match in straight games at the Tianhe Indoor Stadium. Sindhu won 21-18, 23-21 to register the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
Third seed Saina beat Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand 18-21, 21-16, 21-14 in a clash which lasted 52 minutes to also move into the quarter finals. Sindhu had a keen tussle with her more fancied opponent, seeded second in the tournament, till 8-8 before the Indian surged ahead to open a 12-9 lead. But the higher-ranked Chinese rallied back and the closely-fought match went to 16-16. But, then the 10th seed Sindhu won two consecutive points and kept increasing the margin to eventually win at 21-18.
The second game was on equal footing till 6-6 before Sindhu managed to take a huge 13-7 lead. Continuing to build on the initial advantage, the girl from Hyderabad kept on extending the gap and made it 20-17. But the Chinese dug deep into her vast experience to save as many as three match points to make it 20-20 and then took it a step further by bagging another point to take an upper hand on 21-20. Sindhu, however, maintained her composure to save the match point before going for the final kill. The young Indian now runs into world No. eight Shixian Wang of China.
Kashyap hit 16 clear winners as compared to just nine by his opponent from Hong Kong. Yun Hu completely failed to live up to the expectations and was far from his best today. Hu, looking totally off-colour, let the Indian dominate throughout the match. Kashyap opened up a 14-7 lead in the first game itself, before wrapping it up at 21-13.
The second game saw Hu suffering a similar fate as Kashyap once again made it 14-7. But Hu pocketed four consecutive points to reduce the gap to 11-14 and then levelled 15-15 before running out steam and handed Kashyap a victory. Kashyap will meet world No. 3 Pengyu Du in the last eight stage.
Earlier, Saina kept her all-win record against Buranaprasertsuk intact, having beaten her in their five previous encounters before Thursday. Saina’s most recent win against Buranaprasertsuk came last year during the Thailand Open. Saina will next take on Korea's Yeon Ju Bae, who is seeded 13th in the event. Buranaprasertsuk started off strongly and surprised the Indian with winning smashes, sending down 11 of them in the first game. But Saina regained her composure pretty quickly and roared back in the second game with nine of her trademark smash winners. She kept up the pressure in the deciding game as well to emerge triumphant after the initial scare.
Saina, meanwhile, has dropped one spot to the fourth position in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings. Saina was overtaken by Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon. Sindhu managed to retain her 12th position in the world rankings.
In the men's singles, Kashyap slipped four places to the 17th spot while R M V Gurusaidutt jumped a spot to a career-best 20th position. Ajay Jayaram, who crashed out in the second round was static at 24th position.
Among other men’s singles players, Sourabh Verma, B Sai Praneeth, K Srikanth, Anand Pawar are ranked between 36th to 39th positions while H S Prannoy has jumped five places to the 46th spot.