Sai Praneeth reaches final; Saina Nehwal crashes out of Thailand Open
India had a mixed day at the $1,20,000 Thailand Open Grand Prix badminton tournament after third seed B. Sai Praneeth stormed into the men's singles final while Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal crashed out of the women's singles semi-finals here on Saturday.
Praneeth booked his place in the final after registering an easy 21-11 21-15 win against local player Pannawit Thongnuam while second seed Saina went down narrowly 19-21 18-21 to local shuttler Busanan Ongbamrungphan.
In the opening game, after splitting the first four points, World No. 24 Praneeth carved out a three-point lead to go in front 6-3. From then on, the Indian started dominating to go into the break with a 11-7 lead.
After the break, Praneeth kept the pressure on his opponent taking the first three points to go in front 14-7 and even though the Thai managed to win a few points Praneeth managed to seal the first game 21-11.
Thongnuam came out fighting in the second game and though Praneeth eked out a narrow 6-4 lead, the home favourite levelled things up at 6-6. The Thai then picked up the next three points to take the lead, but at the break, there was nothing to choose between the duo with Praneeth managing a slender 11-10 lead.
Thongnuam managed to stay in touch for the first few points after the break, before Praneeth sealed an easy win with the scoreboard reading 21-11 21-15 to close the tie in just 36 minutes.
Praneeth will now take on fourth seed Jonathan Christie -- who registered a 21-9 21-18 win over Malaysia's Joo Ven Soong in the other semi-final match -- in the summit clash on Sunday.
In the women's semi-final, Saina was made to do all the running in the initial stages against Busanan as the latter raced to a 3-0 lead. However, Saina came back strongly to win the next two points, before levelling the game at 5-5.
From then on, both players started committing unforced errors, but at the mid-game interval Busanan had managed a narrow 11-9 lead. Needing to up her game after the interval, Saina came out fighting to win four straight points and take a 13-11 lead.
But just as the Indian looked set to run away with the game, the Thai came back to win the next three points, as she dictated the pace of the rallies. Even though Saina managed to level the game at 17 points and then again at 19-19, it was the Thai youngster who kept her nerve to close the game out at 21-19.
The second game was a much closer contest as the duo shared the first 8 points equally, before Saina managed to get her nose ahead with the scoreboard reading 7-5.
By then, Saina had found her rhythm and her range as she started calling the shots to race to a 11-8 advantage. Though Saina managed to win the first three points after the break, a brilliant drop shot from the 21-year-old Thai saw her claim the first of four straight points.
Tied at 14-14 both the players refused to give an inch, but Busanan managed to up her game just when it mattered, with another drop shot that gave her two match points to seal an impressive win in 53 minutes.