New Delhi: If Indian badminton reached a new high Monday by reaching the Uber Cup quarterfinals, Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu took the host nation a notch higher by quashing a tough challenge from Thailand 3-2 to top Group C at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here Tuesday.
Saina and Sindhu both won their singles matches followed by Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa's doubles win which took India to the peak of their group ahead of top seeds Thailand, Hong Kong and Canada. India, who won all three group ties, and Thailand had already qualified for the last eight Monday.
World No.8 Saina's victory over World Champion Ratchanok Intanon in the first singles was the story of the day. The Hyderabadi, whose performance graph was questioned by many of her critics, answered back by beating the World No.4 in straight games. The Olympic bronze medallist won her clash 22-20, 21-14 in 42 minutes to give India the lead at the start.
Ratchanok was deceptive like always but Saina matched the Thai with superb speed and agility. The Indian slowly seemed to take the lead (12-8) but Ratchanok clawed back to level it at 12-all. The first game turned into a game of trickery and agility but the Indian eventually prevailed after giving away a gamepoint.
In the second game, the Indian looked like the Saina of old when she raced away to an 11-4 advantage before pulling it away and making Ratchanok look like a second rung player.
"I just can't believe I won. I have been training hard for this tournament and I am glad I pulled it off. This win is a real confidence booster. My strokes and movement were alright. I was much better at the net and my defence was also good," said Saina, who extended her career record to 5-3 over Ratchanok.
Next up, World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu also eased past 21-19, 21-14 over World No.9 Porntip Buranaprasertsuk in the second singles to give India a 2-0 lead and better her head-to-head to 3-1.
Jwala and Ashwini's 21-16, 21-13 victory over Duanganong Aroonkesorn and Savitree Amitrapai gave India the victory to top the group.
In the first dead rubber, P.C. Thulasi, who had won her previous two singles against Canada and Hong Kong, lost to Busanan Ongbumrungpan 15-21, 10-21 but the surprise of the day was Saina and Sindhu joining hands to play the second doubles.
The unimpressive performance of the usual pair of Pradnya Gadre and N. Siki Reddy prompted the team management to experiment with the Saina-Sindhu combine. Since India had already qualified for the quarterfinals, the team management thought of trying out the option.
Though the pair provided entertainment, they lacked the experience of playing together and poor coordination led to their 12-21, 21-18, 15-21 loss against Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.
India's quarterfinal opponent will be known Wednesday when the knockout draws are announced.
Meanwhile, the Indian men will play their last inconsequential group match Wednesday. The men were knocked out of the Thomas Cup Monday.