PV Sindhu edged out Olympic champion Carolina Marin, while Kidambi Srikanth also continued his impressive run at the Malaysia Open, as both Indians progressed to the semi-finals with straight-game wins.
Ever since Sindhu lost that epic Olympic final to Marin in Rio two years ago, she has had the upper hand over the Spaniard. The two have met each other four times since Rio and Sindhu has now won three of those meetings to tie their head-to-head at 6-6.
The first game was an extremely tight affair, with both players trading points until Sindhu sneaked ahead towards the end to open up an 18-15 lead. However, Marin stepped on the gas to win the next five points and take two game-point opportunities.
Sindhu did not panic and continued with her attacking game, eventually winning the next four points to take the opening game 22-20.
As the second game started, Marin committed too many errors and went completely off rail, conceding seven points in a row as Sindhu took a sizeable 13-6 lead. The Indian world No 3 should have closed out the match easily from there, but she again allowed Marin back in as the Spaniard won eight of the next 10 points to reduce the gap to 15-14.
Sindhu was now getting nervous, while Marin was gaining confidence for an all-out attack with nothing to lose. However, the Indian managed to maintain her composure just enough to wrap up the game 21-19 and seal her progress.
Earlier, fourth seed Srikanth, who won a silver medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, dumped world no 22 Brice Leverdez 21-18, 21-14 in a 39-minute clash. The Indian had beaten the Frenchman in three games at All England Championship this year.
In the semi-finals, the 25-year-old will take on former world no 2 and 2015 world championship bronze medallist Kento Momota, who has been in sensational form ever since making a comeback to the circuit after serving a one-year ban for gambling at an illegal casino three years ago.
Momota clinched the Macau Open and Dutch Open titles last year, besides reaching the finals at Canada Open. He won the 2018 Asia Badminton championship and was also unbeaten at the Thomas Cup.
Srikanth will have a tough task at hand as Momota will be extra-motivated to earn back his respect as it was here two years ago that he had to concede a second-round match after the news of him and compatriot Kenichi Tago gambling at an illegal casino broke out.
Srikanth erased a 5-8 deficit against Leverdez to grab a 11-9 lead at the break. Leverdez clawed back at 12-12 but the Indian again marched ahead to grab a 17-14 advantage. The Frenchman again drew parity at 17-17 before Srikanth surged to pocket the opening game.
In the second game, Srikanth and Leverdez fought till 5-5 before the Indian first grabbed a 11-5 lead and then kept his nose ahead to comfortably shut the doors on his rival.
With inputs from PTI