Saina, Sridhar stay alive in badminton (Lead)

August 10th, 2008 - 10:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By V.Krishnaswamy
Beijing, Aug 10 (IANS) Saina Nehwal and Anup Sridhar played true to their rankings and form to win their matches in the Olympic badminton competition at the Beijing University of Technology Gymnasium Sunday. They kept the Indian camp with some hope as their more celebrated compatriots in other disciplines faded away on the second day of the Games. In the morning, world no. 15 Saina carved out an emphatic 21-18, 21-10 second-round win over Ukraine’s Gryga Larysa in a jiffy to book a pre-quarterfinal berth.

Sridhar was equally convincing, racing to a straight 21-16, 21-14 victory over Marco Vasconcelos of Portugal to advance to the second round where he meets Shoji Sato of Japan.

Eighteen-year-old Saina though will have a sterner test when she faces World No. six and old nemesis Wang Chen of Hong Kong. Saina has lost twice to Chen but her recent form does raise hopes of an upset which could bring her close to a medal. Chen Wang ruthlessly mowed down Eva Sladekov of Slovakia 21-7, 21-8.

Admitting that the reigning Asian Games Champion will be a formidable opponent, Saina said: “From here on, every match is like a final. As for my game I did not feel uncomfortable at any point in the match. The crowd is great — you hardly see so many people cheering badminton players — and the atmosphere is electric.”

Asked about her chances against fourth seed and experienced 32-year-old Wang Chen, Saina said: “It’s going to be tough, no question about that. But I can assure you that I would put my 100 percent.”

Playing Larysa for the first time, Saina took her time to assess her opponent before shifting gears. The Ukrainian won her first two points at the start of the match, but Saina recovered soon and the score was neck and neck till 6-5 for the Indian.

Saina then went on to build a 10-7 lead. Larysa made her first big move at that point with six straight points going up 13-10.

It was Saina’s turn thereafter as she raced with five in a row to regain the lead at 15-13 and maintained the tempo to wrap up the game in 17 minutes. In the second game, Saina was never challenged. She led 5-0, 8-1, 10-3 and 12-5 and soon ended the match at 21-10.

Explaining her slowish and measured start against Larysa, Saina said, “I had not played her earlier, so I did not go all out right from the start. I needed time to pick her (weak points).”

In the evening, Sridhar, played with a strapped knee to outclass Marco. Marco led 6-3 in the initial stages of the first game, but the Indian bounced back with five consecutive points to forge ahead 8-6. There was no going back, and Sridhar finished off the game in 15 minutes.

Retaining the momentum, world number 29 Sridhar made the scoreline 6-1 in the second game, and then consolidated to a 13-4 lead to shut out his rival.

Sridhar has his nose in front in the head-to-head rivalry with Sato. In their long-standing rivalry, the 25-year-old Indian enjoys a 3-2 record over the 16th-ranked Japanese.

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