Kuala Lumpur:Saina Nehwal shrugged off her opening match disappointment to become the first Indian shuttler to reach the semi-finals of the World Super Series Masters Finals when she defeated Mew Choo Wong of Malaysia in the group league stage on Friday.
Saina defeated Wong 21-10, 17-21, 21-16 to claim her second successive win that catapulted her to the last four stage.
Following her loss to Tine Rasmussen in the first game, Saina had to win both her quarter-final league matches and she did just that.
After brushing past Hongyan Pi of France 21-18, 21-13 in the day's first encounter, the world No. 10 Indian had to battle hard before edging past Wong in the evening match.
Faced with a must-win situation, a gritty Saina rode on her powerful smashes and opened up a nine-point lead at 13-4 in the first game as her Malaysian counterpart could not match up to her.
The world No. 11 Malaysian tried to level scores but could not get past Saina who held on to her lead and won the game 21-10.
However, Saina lost concentration in the next game and allowed her rival to open a four-point lead at 9-13.
Saina rallied to level the score but was soon staring at defeat as the game progressed. She ultimately conceded the second game 17-21 and allowed the Malaysian to bounce back. The decider was a cliffhanger as both fought tooth and nail before Saina took a slight advantage with the score reading 13-10 in her favour.
Earlier, Saina hammered fourth-seed Pi of France in a 34-minute contest to keep her semi-final hopes alive. The 18-year-old national champion rallied well to leave her opponent, ranked three notches above her, huffing and puffing all over the court and indulged in some sharp smashes to gallop her way to the first set at 21-18.
In the next game, Hongyan displayed some powerful strokes and matched Saina's smashes well but the Indian ace was not in a mood to give an inch. She played close to the nets and raced away with the game 21-13.
Saina was naturally ecstatic following her progress to the semi-finals but said she did not expect to win both her quarter-final league matches.
"It was a very good match, I am very satisfied and happy with my performance. To be honest I didn't expect to win two matches on a single day. Both were very tough and I am happy that I made it to the semi-finals," said the teenager from Hyderabad.
Speaking about her gruelling encounter with Wong, the Hyderabad girl, who came close to missing the tournament following a goof-up at the regional passport office, said it was her strong smashes which came good in the end.
"It was a long match. I rallied well and my smashes were coming really good. I think I was strong enough to lead in the first game.
"In the second, she was on the better side and there was a drift. So I was not able to control and the shuttles were going out a bit," Saina said.
"I was not at all scared today, I knew I had nothing to lose so I just gave my 100 per cent. I knew I can do it. I just kept my cool and didn't let tension get the better off me because whenever I become tense, I give away points." She will face third-seed Chen Wang of Hong Kong, the world No. 6 in the semi-finals.
"Tomorrow is again a very tough match. Wang is a very attacking player and has some good half smashes and pushes. Hope I can give her a tough competition," said Saina. Coach Pullela Gopichand felt Saina's progress should augur well for Indian badminton.
"It's a great victory. I am very happy with her performance. It will surely do a whole lot of good to Indian badminton. Finally India has come at the world stage," said the former All England champion.
Thereafter she didn't gave Wong much chance and wrapped up the match in 48 minutes.