New Delhi: Olympic champion Li Xuerui on thursday lauded Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu and called them "strong opponents" against whom they can never afford to give an inch.
"They are strong opponents, always tough to beat and we respect them. You see how Sindhu has beaten Shixiang Wang thrice and she did well here too. We have to be at our best to beat them," Li said with the help of an interpreter.
Saina had beaten Li at the Singapore Open in 2010 and also prevailed over her in a three-game match at the Indonesia Open in 2012, while Sindhu had defeated the two-time Asian championship winner in China Open in 2012, just after her Olympic glory.
Saina and Sindhu also have a good record against two-time All England champion Shixian Wang. While Sindhu had a 3-0 record against the Chinese before her first defeat to her at the ongoing India Super Series, Saina has a 4-3 record against the world championship bronze medallist.
Yihan Wang, who completes the Chinese trio, however always had an upper hand against India`s ace shuttler Saina, having beaten her seven times in the past. However, against Sindhu, she has a 1-1 record with the Indian beating her at the World championship last year.
Li today survived a scare from Nichaon Jindapon of Thailand to reach the quarterfinals by eking out a difficult 19-21 21-17 21-16 win in the second round.
"It was not a good day for me, but I am happy to have turned it around."
It is always difficult to hold on to the world number one status and Li said she belives in herself and would take one match at a time in the hectic year ahead.
"I have belief in my abilities and that helps me stay at the top," she said.
"I won the Asian Championships here and I would love to win the India Open title. There are too many tournaments this year and I am just hoping to take it one at a time and give my best."