BUKIT JALIL: Last year, 18-year-old P.V. Sindhu came of age when she made the semi-finals of the World Championships in Guangzhou last August.
The Indian starlet, who is one of the rising stars in women’s singles, also won two titles – the Malaysian Open GP Gold and the Macau Open – last year.
Now, the Indian national champion is ready to step up to the plate and take some burden off the shoulders of Saina Nehwal, who has been struggling to find her form and confidence recently.
The world No. 11 got off to a good start at the Maybank Malaysian Open by beating Indonesia’s Lindaweni Fanetri 21-17, 21-18 in the first round on Wesnesday.
“It was a good win and a good start because my opponent was good and made me play a lot of long rallies,” said Sindhu.
“Once I got ahead by a few points, I just did my best to stay in front.
“After enjoying a great season last year, with a semi-final appearance in the world meet and my two titles, I want to push myself another level up.
“This is a big year with so many tournaments – the Uber Cup, Commonwealth and Asian Games, as well as the World Championships.
“There’s no pressure on me but I’m hoping that this will be the year I continue to make great strides in my game.
“I’m really happy that I’m playing well, considering that lately women’s singles is becoming more competitive.”
Sindhu will have another chance to show what she is capable of when she takes on South Korea’s Bae Youn-joo in the second round on Thursday.
Meanwhile, world No. 8 Saina gave herself a massive confidence boost by beating Indonesia’s Desi Hara 21-10, 21-16 in the first round to set up a second round clash with last year’s finalist Yao Xue of China.
Yao Xue ended the challenge of Malaysia’s Tee Jing Yi, winning 21-16, 21-14 on Wednesday.
Defending champion Tai Tzu-ying also cruised through after beating Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin 22-20, 21-18.
World No. 2 and second seed Wang Shixian of China almost suffered an early exit against Japan’s Sayaka Takahashi before winning 21-15, 16-21, 22-20.
Meanwhile, 16-year-old Akane Yamaguchi created the biggest upset of the day by beating world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand.
The reigning world junior champion was on fire as she notched a famous 21-18, 23-25, 21-16 win over Ratchanok to set up a second round clash against compatriot Minatsu Mitani.