London: Ace shuttler Saina Nehwal scripted history Thursday as she became the first Indian to reach the semifinals of the Olympics badminton event.
The World No.5 defeated Danish Tine Baun 21-15, 22-20 in 39 minutes to reach the last four of women's singles at the Wembley Arena. In the process Saina also improved her head-to-head record againt Baun to 4-3.
The Indian took off in excellent form with her cross-court and traditional sliced smashes. The fourth seed forced Baun to make several errors in the first game with precise volleys on which the Dane erred.
Saina, a Pullela Gopichand protege, gained a solid advantage (16-9) aided by some exquisite deft touches at the net.
The 33-year-old Dane, an old foe of Saina, tried fighting back but the Hyderabadi proved too good and did not allow Baun to keep her serve.
Saina, 22, with her brilliant on-court movement and deep lunges for the shuttle earned a 20-13 advantage and won the game on her fourth game point.
Baun, determined to fight back, put up a much better show in the second game which almost went in her favour.
The second game saw a close and exciting see-saw battle where Saina's body shots and Baun's smashes were both working and neither player could completely dominate the opponent.
Initially it looked as if Baun would take the lead in the game with a 10-7 advantage but Saina clawed back winning six consecutive points to take the lead (13-10).
The fifth seeded Dane suddenly found spring in her legs when it appeared that Saina would ease through. Baun first levelled the score at 15-15 and then went ahead 18-15.
In no time, Baun reached game point (20-17). But the 22-year-old Indian was in her elements and rallied back saving three game points and drew level at 20-all.
Within a couple of minutes, Gopichand erupted from his seat and Saina clinched her fists indicating her triumph at the quarterfinal stage.
Saina next faces World No. 1 and top seed Yihan Wang of China. The Indian has never beaten in her previous five encounters.