India's star shuttler Saina Nehwal, on Thursday, took a big step towards Tokyo Olympic qualification, as she fought her way into the quarter-finals of the ongoing Malaysia Masters Super 500 tournament in Kuala Lampur. The World No. 11 beat An Se Young of Korea, placed two places above in the world rankings, 25-23, 21-12.
In action, on court 2 at the Axiata Arena, the London Olympic bronze medallist showed tremendous grit and determination, using her experience to take home the first game 25-23. As the score would suggest, it was a tightly contested affair filled with long rallies. Both Saina and An Se fought for every point, trying to outwit each other at every occasion. The young Korean saved two game points and then had a couple of game points of her own wasted before Saina, eventually, snatched the game.
In the second game, though, Saina took complete control of the proceedings. An Se had a small lead towards the start of the second game, but the Indian shuttler levelled at 7-7 and then on, gained momentum, taking 6 straight points. She then wrapped it up quickly 21-12.
She thus exacted revenge on the An Se, having lost their only previous clash at last year's French Open quarters. An Se had also scored a win over India's top-ranked shuttler PV Sindhu and had enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2019. With this win, Saina is set to climb up from 25th
Earlier, on Wednesday, Saina had got India off to a winning start with her first round victory over Lianne Tan of Belgium. The 29-year-old shuttler won in straight games, 21-15, 21-17 and eased into the second round.
PV Sindhu, Sameer Verma and HS Prannoy are the other Indians left in the singles fray, they will be in action later in the day.