New Delhi, Oct 17: Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal defeated world no. 2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan for the first time in four years to enter the quarterfinals of the Denmark Open, here on Thursday.
Nehwal, an Olympic bronze-medallist and current World No. 10, registered an easy 21-15, 21-17 win over second-seeded Yamaguchi in the pre-quarterfinal match that lasted just 36 minutes. The 28-year-old Indian will now take on World No. 3 and another Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in the quarterfinals on Friday.
This was Nehwal's second career win over Yamaguchi, who has won six times in the head-to-head encounters between the two. Nehwal's first win against Yamaguchi came in 2014 during the China Open.
Since then, Yamaguchi has enjoyed upper hand against the Indian. The earlier two meetings this year -- Uber Cup in May and Malaysia Open in June -- also went in Yamaguchi's favour.
Nehwal trailed 0-4 initially but she made a fine comeback to level the scores at 10-10. And from there on, Nehwal showed tremendous resolve and reeled off five straight points to take a 15-10 lead and then widened it to 19-12. Yamaguchi recovered a bit but Nehwal grabbed five game points at 20-15 and then easily pocketed the first game.
In the second game, it was Nehwal's turn to take the lead initially as she zoomed to 7-2 but Yamaguchi caught her up at 11-11. After that, it was a close tussle between the two as they were locked 17-17. At that stage, Nehwal cinched four points on the trot to win the second game and clinch the match.