*Saina to face Li Xuerui and Carolina Marin to face Wang Shixian in the semi-finals
World No 1 Saina Nehwal of India cleared a tough Chinese hurdle to book herself place in the semi-finals of the USD500,000 Maybank Malaysia Open at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Friday with a hard fought 21-11, 18-21, 21-17 win over Sun Yu in 71 minutes.
“I seem to be playing the Chinese Army, and I will be up against former world No 1 and top seed Li Xuerui in the semi-finals. Yesterday (Thursday) I played another Chinese (Yao Xue). If I get past the semis I may just face another of the Chinese army.
Xuerui battled for 55 minutes to beat compatriot Wang Yihan 14-21, 21-15, 21-12 in the quarter-finals and remains the favoruite for the title.
“But I am ready to face them. I am happy to be in the semi-finals. This is my first tournament as World No 1 but there is no pressure. My previous best in Malaysia Open was reaching the semi-finals ( 2012 and 2013) and I hope to go one better,” said Saina after her match.
What pleases the 25-year-old Saina is the crowd support she has been getting at the Putra Stadium.
“It’s fantastic. I am so happy that I have gained many fans here as World No 1. They helped me in many ways and they make me feel at home and inspire me. Right now I am tired but I will be ready to face Xuerui.”
Going into the semifinals on Saturday, Xuerui holds a 7-2 advantage in the head to head count against Saina.
“It is tiring playing in so many tournaments but I came well prepared. I pick and choose my tournaments. After the All England, I played in the India Open and now the Malaysia Open. I have entered the Singapore Open but I may skip Singapore,” added Saina who is aware that there are many young badminton players who are coming up.
“They all pose serious threat and they have added more spice to women’s badminton. (Carolina) Marin, Tai Tzu-ying, Nozomi (Okuhara), Akane (Yamaguchi), Ayaka (Takahashi) and many others. They are all about my age and it is good to see them playing top level badminton.”
Meanwhile in the other semi-final World champion Carolina Marin of Spain set up a thrilling encounter against No 2 seed Wang Shixian Marin needed only 34 minutes to defeat Taiwan qualifier Cheung Ngan Yi 21-12, 21-9 while Shixian slogged for 21-19, 15-21, 22-20 win over Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in a marathon match which last I hour 51 minutes.