Saina Nehwal imposed a hard-fought straight-game win over former world champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan to enter the women’s singles semifinals of the Malaysia Masters in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. The match lasted for 48-minutes.
Seventh-seeded Saina made a 9-4 head-to-head record against Okuhara on Friday. Saina fought back from 9-15 and 14-18 down in the two games to extend her dominance over the second-seeded Japanese with a 21-18 23-21 win at the Axiata Arena.
The quarter-final match started on an even note as both the shuttlers fought hard, moving together till 9-9. Saina was then trailed by 6 points as Okuhara successfully captured the lead by scoring six straight points. But the Indian shuttler hard fought to equalise the lead. Okuhara made it 17-17 before Saina closed out the opening game by grabbing the remaining points.
The Indian was 4-2 up early on in the second game but Okuhara jumped to an 8-5 lead before Saina wrested an 11-9 advantage at the break.
After the interval, Saina led till 14-12 but Okuhara reeled off six points to take a comfortable 18-14 lead. But Saina again slowly started dominating the rallies and clawed her way back to 19-19.
Saina Nehwal had won the title in 2017 and was a runner-up in the 2011 edition.
The 28-year-old from Hyderabad will face a tough test next when she faces three-time world champion Carolina Marin of Spain on Saturday. In the last 10 meetings, Saina has defeated Marin five times and has lost to the Spaniard as many times.