May 26 2020
Erratic Saina loses in final
18 December 2011

World No. 4 Saina Nehwal of India showed flashes of brilliance which was not good enough as she missed her date with history as the World champion and World No. 1 Wang Yihan recorded a come-from-behind 18-21, 21-13, 21-13 win in the women’s singles final of the $ 500,000 BWF World Super Series badminton championship in China on Sunday afternoon.

It was a stunning start from the India’s best known face in contemporary world badminton and who was apparently keen to wipe off all bad memories of this year. But, for the Swiss Open Super Series title, 2011 was otherwise filled with huge disappointments.

But, Wang was just too good for the Indian shuttler when it mattered most in the crucial phases of the 72-minute final.

To start with, Saina never gave the impression that she was up against a world champion, racing away to an 8-2 convincing lead, showing lot of aggression and coming up with some stunning body smashes. The way the Indian star engaged her opponent in long rallies was a treat to watch. And, she invariably got the better of the opponent with big points. To Saina’s delight, Yihan served out at 9-11 at crucial juncture of the game. Though the scores were levelled 14-all later on and Yihan came up with her trademark cross-court forehand half-smashes, it was obvious that the Chinese world champion was under pressure in the face of some incredible rallies and splendid drops by Saina. When Saina smashed one hard into Yihan’s body to take a 20-18 lead it was symbolic, perhaps, of her intent to dominate and she eventually wrapped up the first game to gain a huge psychological advantage.

In the second game, Yihan made amends and showed why she is such a class player, controlling the pace of the shuttle. The scores were levelled twice, four-all and 11-all, before the Chinese picked seven points in a row to take a huge 18-11 lead. That was the phase when Saina seemed to have lost focus as there were too many erratic returns and even missed out some easy points at the net too. And, Yihan essayed a backhand smash to clinch the game 21-13 and take the issue into the decider.

Gopi’s pep-talk

It was interesting to hear Saina’s coach Pullela Gopi Chand to remind his trainee before the start of the third game that the Chinese opponent too can play big shots and advice her to play the waiting game and conserve energy.

But, it did not have the desired effect as Saina’s game faltered in the decider as Yihan came up with some incredible half-smashes with great control which caught the Indian off-guard quite a few times to take a 9-3 lead at one stage. Then, Saina came up with big smashes and wonderful net game and saw the opponent too miss simple forehand smashes to reduce the lead to 7-9.

Significantly, Yihan rarely preferred to go for the big smashes, relying more on cross-court returns either in the fore-court or to the corners. A strategy which saw Saina clearly struggling and as the game progressed her body language too was not really positive as Yihan took an 18-10 lead . And, when the world champion executed the forehand smash down the line to clinch the issue, it was an apt end to a great comeback by the Chinese player who had now won seven titles this year.

For someone who had already created history by becoming the first ever Indian to enter the singles final of the World Super Series (Gutta Jwala and V. Diju were the only other Indians who made it to the final in mixed doubles in the 2009 edition), Saina could still feel happy for the way she fought valiantly and brought back memories of her vintage displays of last year.

The 21-year-old Hyderabadi is on record before she left the City to remind that she is in the mood to prove that she is worth her reputation and all the media limelight for all good reasons with an improved showing in this edition.

But today’s wonderful performance in the final was also another reminder that Saina is the only player outside China who has the game and the ability to breach what not long ago was an impregnable ‘Chinese Wall’ in the world badminton.

Results: All finals:

Women’s doubles: Xiaoli Wang & Yang Yu (Chn) bt Jung Eun Ha & Min Jung Kim (Kor) 21-8, 2-12.

Mixed doubles: Nan Zhang & Yunlei Zhao (Chn) bt Chen Xu and Jin Ma (Chn) 21-13, 21-15.

Men doubles: Mathias Bose & Carsten Mongensen (Den) bt Bio Chai and Zhendong Guo (Chn) 25-23, 21-7.

Women’s singles: Yihan Wang (Chn) bt Saina Nehwal (Ind) 18-21, 21-13, 21-13.



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