Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal [ Images ] remained on course for her second title of the season, reaching the semi-finals of the Thailand Open Grand Prix [ Images ] Gold with a straight-games victory over Sapsiree Taerattanachai in Bangkok on Friday.
Top seed Saina played long rallies and used her effective smashes to stave off the challenge from the hosts' eighth seed to win 21-10, 22-20 at the CU Sport Complex.
.The world No 5, who is one India's [ Images ] medal prospects at the London [ Images ] Olympics [ Images ], will next take on the winner of the match between Japan's [ Images ] Nozomi Okuhara and third seed Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand on Saturday.
Saina produced a dominant show in the first game as she reeled off straight games to open up an 8-0 lead before taking the set.
In the second game, Saina led 4-2, but Taerattanachai registered six straight points to grab the lead.
The Indian ace then steadily narrowed the gap and caught up with the Thai at 19-19 before sealing the issue.
Saina had defended her title at the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold in March in Basel, Switzerland [ Images ] early this year.
"Overall, it went off well. Saina started off well in the first game, but in the second game, towards the beginning, she hurried up a bit. She started attacking more and made many errors in the bargain. But eventually she rallied and got back into the match," Saina's mentor and National coach Pullela Gopichand [ Images ] said from Bangkok.
Asked about Saina's next opponent, Porntip of Thailand, who is seeded third, Gopichand said: "She is a tricky player, and with the home crowd behind her, she might prove to be a tough opponent. But, overall, the way Saina has been playing in the last three days, I think, it will be a good match."
Saina is now the only Indian left in fray as all others crashed out with contrasting defeats in the men's singles on Friday.
Rising shuttler Sourabh Verma, seeded 12th, couldn't put up a fight and succumbed 6-21, 8-21 to Indonesian Sony Dwi Kuncoro, while his brother Sameer Verma went down 16-21, 13-21 to Huan Gao of China.
Sai Praneeth B also could not cross the quarter-final hurdle and bowed out after a 15-21, 17-21 loss to Chinese Chen Yuekun in a 38-minute match.
However, Gopichand said despite the losses, it was still a very positive sign for Indian badminton.
"Overall, I am happy with the way they played. Three of them came this far and I think it is a very positive sign. They will move up in the coming days," he said.
Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images