Saina Nehwal got a stiff workout a typical long match with longer rallies against Japanese Sayaka Sato as she headed into her first decisive Friday knockout in a long while, returning from surgery and rehab at Hong Kong on Thursday.
The 51-minute 21-19, 9-21, 21-16 win had got edgy at 15-14 in the third game, but the Indian showed her class in pulling away from a potential climactic scrap and entering the quarters.
Nehwal is a match away from running into compatriot PV Sindhu in the semis which will be only their second international face-off, should both win on Friday. But the enticing duel aside, the Round 2 win was crucial for Nehwal’s confidence after she overturned another result in her opening round against Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk – a 56 minute contest.
It was normal service resumed as Nehwal — who’s been the epitome of consistency made the familiar last 8, which until the injury was considered commonplace for her. The London Olympics bronze medallist and Worlds runners-up had shrugged off her Round 1 loss in China — her first match since her return — and looked to be getting into the groove.
“Another big victory today against world number 11 from Japan …Sayaka sato .Happy to see that I m improving every match” (sic),” she tweeted soon after.