P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth continued their impressive run at the Malaysia Open, progressing to the semi-finals of the women's and men's singles competition with straight-game victories in the US$ 700,000 World Tour Super 750 tournament, in Kuala Lumpur, on Friday.
In a quarter-final clash between Olympic silver and gold medallists, Sindhu emerged victorious, outclassing Spain's Carolina Marin 22-20, 21-19 in 52 minutes.
The 22-year-old Indian, who won silver at the Glasgow World Championship, will face world No. 1 Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying on Saturday.
Earlier, fourth seed Srikanth, who won the silver medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, dumped world No. 22 Brice Leverdez of France 21-18, 21-14 in 39 minutes, at the Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil, a suburb in Kuala Lumpur.
The Indian had beaten the Frenchman in three games at the All England Championships earlier this year.
The 25-year-old will take on 2015 World Championships bronze medallist Kento Momota, who is in sensational form since making a comeback after serving a one-year ban by the Japan Badminton Association for gambling at an illegal casino in 2015.
Momota clinched the Macau Open and Dutch Open last year besides reaching the final at the Canada Open. He won the 2018 Asia Badminton Championships and was also unbeaten at the Thomas Cup.
Srikanth has a tough task on hand as Momota will be extra motivated to earn back some respect. It was here two years ago that he had to concede a second round match after the news of him and compatriot Kenichi Tago gambling at an illegal casino broke.
In the women's singles, Sindhu started the proceedings with a sharp smash and moved to a 3-1 lead early on but Marin clawed back. The Indian ace again opened a slender two-point lead which evaporated quickly.
As has been the norm, Sindhu and Marin continued to fight it out and leads changed hands frequently. The former finally grabbed a 11-10 lead at the break after Marin failed to reach a shot at the back line.
Marin then dictated the pace of the rallies to open up a 13-11 lead, and celebrated every point with her usual verbal screams. Sindhu attacked her opponent's backhand to draw level, this time at 14-14, and moved ahead with a smash, which Marin returned wide.
Trailing 15-18, Marin stepped up the attack and grabbed five straight points to secure two game-point opportunities. A net error and a wide shot by the Spaniard saw Sindhu level at 20. Marin again hit wide and then found the net as the Indian pocketed the opening game.
The second game started in a similar fashion as Sindhu and Marin moved to 3-3 before the Indian surged to a 6-3 lead. The left-handed shuttler, however, soon levelled the score with three points as Sindhu committed a few unforced errors.
At the interval, Sindhu grabbed a 11-6 advantage after reeling off five straight points, which ended with Marin hitting out.
Marin slipped on the court after the break but managed to narrow the gap to 10-13 before moving to 14-15. However, the Spaniard hit long, netted a shot and failed to reach one at the forecourt as Sindhu moved to 19-15.
A solid defence saw Sindhu grab three match-points. She blew away two points before unleashing a cross-court smash to seal the contest in 52 minutes.
Srikanth erased a 5-8 deficit to grab a 11-9 lead at the break, before Leverdez drew abreast at 12-12. The Indian then grabbed a 17-14 advantage before the Frenchman drew parity at 17. However, that was all Srikanth allowed his opponent before pocketing the opening game.
In the second game, Srikanth and Leverdez were neck-and-neck till 5-5 before the Indian first grabbed a 11-5 lead. He then kept his nose ahead to comfortably shut the door on his opponent.