The Indian suffers a straight-game defeat to the world No. 8 in the semifinals
Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal’s dream of winning her maiden All England Championship badminton crown went up in smoke as she suffered a straight-game defeat to world No. 8 Intanon Ratchanok of Thailand in the women’s singles semifinals here on Saturday.
The world No. 3 Indian went down 21-15, 21-19 to the young Ratchanok in a 40-minute match at the National Indoor Arena.
This is the third time Saina has lost to Ratchanok. She was beaten at the Sudirman Cup in 2011 and also at the Super Series Final last year.
The 18-year-old Ratchanok mixed the strokes and used her drops and tosses well to flummox Saina. The Thai girl had better control over her strokes and controlled the rallies with her varying pace to make it difficult for Saina to come back in the match after pocketing the first game 21-15.
In the second game, Saina opened up a 5-3 lead but Ratchanok used her accurate placing and varied strokes to reel off five points to move 8-5 ahead and continued the good work to take an 18-14 lead. But she hit a couple of points wide to allow Saina to narrow the gap.
An error of judgement gave Ratchanok two match points. Saina saved one with a smash but faltered at the net on the next to give the Thai player a place in the final.
Ratchanok’s court coverage was fantastic. She used the court well to go up 6-4 in the first game. The more experienced Saina, however, levelled the scores at 6-6 and the match went on even keel.
The 18-year-old Thai was certainly the superior player on the day. There were quick smashes and deceptive drop shots at the net which the Olympic bronze medallist did not have any answers to.
Ratchanok, however, raced away from 13-13, winning a number of points with some delightful precision smashes down the line. She completely outmanoeuvred Saina with her net-play and came up with some forceful smashes in between.
In the second game, Ratchanok again dominated the show and took an 8-5 lead. Saina’s plan to engage her opponent in long rallies was not paying any dividends as Ratchanok looked equally good in retrieval as well as in attack. A frustrated Saina then made an unforced error as her forehand smash hit the net.
Down 7-10, a deft drop shot helped her pull back a point after Ratchanok’s backhand shot hit the net. Just when it looked like Saina could make a comeback at 9-10, Ratchanok’s down-the-line forehand smash made it 11-9. Comeback was then out of the question as Ratchanok raced to a five-point lead at 14-9.
However, Saina closed the gap to 17-18 and then saved a match point at 18-20 but, at 20-19, a drop shot from Saina hit the net much to Ratchanok’s delight.
The results: Singles: Men: Quarterfinals: Jan Jorgensen (Den) bt Chen Jin (Chn) 21-7, 21-14; Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Tienh Min Nguyen (Vie) 21-17, 21-19; Chen Long (Chn) bt P. Kashyap (Ind) 21-16, 21-10; Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Tha) bt Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) 21-17, 21-11.
Women: Semifinals: Intanon Ratchanok (Tha) bt Saina Nehwal (Ind) 21-15, 21-19. Quarterfinals: Saina bt Shixian Wang (Chn) 23-21, 19-21, 21-16; Sung Ji-Hyun (Kor) bt Eriko Hirose (Jpn) 21-13, 21-12; Ratchanok bt Juliane Schenk (Ger) 13-21, 21-12, 21-8; Tine Baun (Den) bt Lindaweni Fanetri (Ina) 21-7, 21-13.