Odense, Denmark: India’s Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth entered the semi-finals of the Denmark Open with hard-fought victories over Nozomi Okuhara and Sameer Verma respectively.
Saina, ranked 10th, recovered after the losing the first game to beat familiar foe and world number seven Okuhura of Japan 17-21, 21-16, 21-12 in the quarter-final lasting 58 minutes on Friday night.
The final point of the match was a long rally, which ended with the Japanese finding the net. It was a morale-boosting win for the Indian star, having lost her previous three meetings to Okuhara, including the recent one in Korea last month.
Saina had also lost to the 2017 World Champion during the team event at the Asian Games in August.
Overall, their head-to-head record stands at 7-4 in the Indian’s favour. Saina next faces world No. 19 Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia.
Fellow Indian Srikanth too had to dig deep against countryman Verma with little separating the two in an intense men’s singles quarter-final.
In the end, world number six Srikanth prevailed over the 23-ranked Indian in an epic battle lasting an hour and 18 minutes with the final scoreline reading 22-20, 19-21, 23-21.
The two Indians had not played each prior the quarter-final and their first meeting turned out to be a slugfest. Verma was leading for the major part of the third and deciding game where he even had a 17-13 lead before Srikanth scripted a remarkable fightback to scrape through.
Srikanth plays second seed and world No. 1 Kento Momota of Japan in the semi-final to be held later on Saturday. The formidable Japanese enjoys an 8-3 career record over Srikanth and has not lost to the Indian in their last five meetings.
In the women’s doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy’s spirited campaign came to an end with a loss to top seeds, Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota, in the quarter-finals.