Indian ace Saina Nehwal eked out a thrilling three-game win over USA’s Iris Wang to advance to the women’s singles semi-finals of the Orleans Masters badminton tournament in Orleans, France on Friday, but Kidambi Srikanth suffered a shock straight-game defeat to lower-ranked Toma Junior Popov of France in men’s singles quarter-finals.

It is the first semi-finals in two years for world no. 20 Saina, who is desperate to accumulate ranking points to make it to her four Olympics at the Tokyo Games. Her last semi-final appearance was in January 2019 in the Indonesia Masters 500 tournament which she had won.

The fourth-seeded Indian, who had withdrawn from the All England Championships last week due to an injury, had to dug deep to script a 21-19, 17-21, 21-19 win over world no 36 Wang in a gruelling quarterfinals match that lasted exactly an hour.

The London Olympic bronze medallist will face Denmark’s Line Christophersen in the semi-finals at the Super 100 event, which is a part of BWF’s revised Olympic qualification events after she ended Ira Sharma’s dream run in the competition with a 21-11, 21-8 win.

Srikanth however, relinquished a position of strength in the first game and let a 16-12 lead slipto lose the opening game 21-19. The second game was a close contest for most parts until the Frenchman pulled away at the end to shock his Indian opponent to reach the semi-finals.

Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy, seeded eighth, also entered the last four stage of the women’s doubles competition after notching up a stunning 21-14, 21-18 win over England’s third-seeded duo of Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith.

The world no. 25 Indian pair will face top-seeded Thailand combination of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.

The Indian men’s doubles pair of Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala outwitted world no. 47 French duo of Christo Popov and Toma Junior Popov 21-17, 10-21, 22-20 in an hour and three minutes to make it to the semi-finals.

The unheralded Indian duo will face England’s Callum Hemming and Steven Stallwood for a place in the final on Saturday.

The English pair had ended the campaign of Indian seventh seeds MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila 21-19 18-21 23-21 in the quarter-finals.

However, in mixed doubles, India’s Ashwini Ponnappa and Dhruv Kapila emerged victorious in straight games against English pair Max Flynn and Jessica Pugh as they produced a dominant display to win 21-13, 21-18 in 29 minutes.

Saina dished out a compact game as she led 11-5 at the first interval but Wang narrowed the gap to 13-15 after the break. The American reeled off five straight points next to grab a 18-16 lead.

However, Saina sealed the opening game with four straight points.

The second game was a close affair as both the players fought hard before Saina eked out a slender 13-11 lead at the mid-game but a determined Wang pushed ahead and roared back into contest.

In the decider, Saina led 6-4 and then 12-8. The Indian kept her nose ahead despite Wang breathing down her neck. Saina grabbed three match points, wasted two of them before clinching the match.

With PTI inputs