Orleans Masters badminton: Saina Nehwal, Ashwini-Sikki enter semis

India’s fourth seed Saina Nehwal in women’s singles and eighth-seeded women’s doubles pair Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy progressed to the semi-finals of the Orleans Masters Super 100 badminton tournament on Friday.

Saina edged past Iris Wang of the USA 21-19, 17-21, 21-19 in 60 minutes in the quarter-final match. The Indian shuttler will now lock horns with unseeded Line Christophersen of Denmark in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Ashwini and Sikki beat England’s third seeds Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith 21-14, 21-18 42 minutes in the quarter-finals. They will now face Thai top seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai in the semi-finals on Saturday.

In mixed doubles quarter-finals, India’s new pair Dhruv Kapila and Ashwini Ponnappa beat England’s Max Flynn and Jessica Pugh 21-13, 21-18 in a mere 29 minutes to enter the semi-finals.

However, India’s Kidambi Srikanth lost to France’s Toma Junior Popov 19-21, 17-21 in a men’s singles quarter-final match in 42 minutes and crashed out.

In women’s singles quarter-finals, India’s Ira Sharma lost to Denmark’s Line 11-21, 8-21 in 23 minutes. The Dane will clash with another Indian in the semi-finals, Saina.

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.

(With IANS inputs)

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Sagar Biswas

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