Tenth seed P.V. Sindhu packed off defending champion and local favourite Yihan Wang to reach the quarterfinals of the World Badminton Championships along with compatriots Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap in their respective categories in Guangzhou on Thursday. (Read: Saina drops to World No.4 in latest rankings)
In a fantastic day for Indian badminton where all three shuttlers reached the last eight stage, World No.12 Sindhu caused the biggest upset of the tournament so far by knocking out the London Olympics silver medallist 21-18, 23-21 in 55 minutes in the women's singles third round at the Tianhe Indoor Stadium.
This is the first time India will have three representatives in the last eight stage of the prestigious world championship and are just one victory away from ensuring a medal. While Saina's entry into the quarterfinals was expected, Asian Junior champion Sindhu and London Olympics quarterfinalist P Kashyap punched way above their weight. Sindhu, incidentally, is playing in her maiden world championship.
Sindhu, who had lost to Yihan in their only encounter previously at the Sudirman Cup in May, fought hard in the first game. The Indian managed to take a 12-9 lead before Yihan levelled at 16-all. Thereon, Sindhu used her height to her advantage by dropping the shuttle regularly at the net, enabling her to take the game.
The 18-year-old raced to a 13-7 lead in the second game. But the defending champion wasn't going to give in easily and recovered to make it 17-19. (Also read: Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei enter quarters)
Sindhu clinched the next point to have three match-points in her kitty. But the 25-year-old Chinese found legs to not just knock off the three points but also reach game point (21-20).
However, the Hyderabadi clawed back by first levelling and then taking the next two points to bag the match in straight games. She next faces another Chinese test in the quarters where seventh seed Shixian Wang will be waiting for her.
Earlier, third seed Saina overcame a jittery start against Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk to also move into the last eight.
The World No.4 overcame 15th seeded Porntip 18-21, 21-16, 21-14 in 52 minutes to go 6-0 up in career meetings. With the win, Saina equalled her best performance at the worlds having reached the last eight stage in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Saina looked out of sorts in the first game, making several errors. Her Thai opponent capitalised and closed the gap from 4-7 to 8-all and was at Saina's heels till 18-all. The 21-year-old Thai clinched the next three points to win her first game against the Indian since 2008.
Porntip hit 11 smashes in the game which caught Saina off guard. Several out-of-court shots by the 23-year-old Indian cost her the game but she bounced back in the second game by taking a 15-4 advantage in no time.
Though the Thai tried coming back (10-16), but Saina was in her elements and sealed the game with the help of nine smashes. Despite the game getting tight at the end, the Hyderabadi held her nerves to level the match.
Unlike the first game, Saina made sure she kept the lead throughout the decider. Aided by some brilliant cross court slices from the third court, Saina increased her lead (11-5). After the change of sides, Porntip found legs and notched up a few points with some down-the-line smashes, bringing down Saina's lead to 14-13.
The aggressive Thai made some errors too, giving the initiative to Saina, who then extended the lead to 17-13. The Indian made a minor error before securing the next four points to seal the tie. Saina will next play South Korea's 13th seed Yeon Ju Bae against whom the Indian has a 5-2 record.
Parupalli Kashyap, seeded 13th, advanced to the men's singles quarters beating Hong Kong's sixth seed Yun Hu. The Hyderabadi won 21-13, 21-16 in 37 minutes, this being his first victory over the Hong Kong native in three meetings.
All the three Indians are just one step away from clinching a medal in the tourney.