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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saina Nehwal's China woes continue

Saina Nehwal fell one point short of claiming a hat-trick of Indonesia Open titles, failing to capitalise on a match point against Wang Yihan of China in the final in Jakarta on Sunday.
Saina was one game up and was leading 20-19 in the second, but Yihan kept her nerve and delivered a precise smash that helped her equalise. That one point kept Saina from winning the badminton’s version of a Grand Slam — for the Indonesia Open is a ‘Premier’ Super Series event, one of five in the circuit modelled on the Grand Slam circuit in tennis.

The four-seeded Indian looked in red-hot form to begin with, demolishing the Chinese third seed 21-12 in the first game. There has been doubt over Saina’s form in recent weeks, with unexpected early losses, but on Sunday, she showed no rustiness as Yihan struggled to keep level against her pace and attack. Saina gained from Wang’s numerous errors of judgments, misplaced shots and her own trademark smashes to clinch the opening game rather easily. Wang committed 12 unforced errors in the opening game. Uncharacteristically for a Chinese, she was the one having to withstand a barrage of smashes. From 9-all, Saina steadily gained while the willowy Chinese girl looked outclassed.

But Yihan recovered in the second game and although the number of unforced errors did not improve, Saina helped her rival’s cause by trying too hard to hurry up the proceedings. The result was 10 unforced errors for the Indian, who also struggled to connect the smashes that more often than not had bailed her out in crunch situations.

Yihan, hitting against the drift in the hall, was able to control the tosses better, and the rallies began to get longer as the Chinese began to get her length right.

At 7-10, Saina netted an easy kill, and Yihan began to gain on her. The Indian, to her credit, kept fighting. Yihan seemed to have done enough with a 19-17 lead, but Saina got back on level terms with two big smashes and held match point at 20-19.
It was here that Yihan showed great composure under pressure; she drilled a round-the-head smash that caught Saina by surprise, and went on to take the game 23-21. Saina put aside her disappointment as she began the third game strongly.

Fortunes fluctuated, and at 12-all, it looked like anyone’s game. Imperceptibly, however, Yihan started controlling the rallies from then on as Saina seemed to flag under the pressure of the precision and length of the rallies. The Chinese closed it out at 21-14.

Meanwhile, in the men’s singles, world No 1 Lee Chong Wei thrashed Danish veteran Peter Gade to win the Indonesian Open for a third time. The 28-year-old Malaysian dominated the match to defeat the Gade 21-11 21-7.

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