Saina Nehwal’s dreams of finishing off the year 2012 on a high ended on a whimper when London Olympics gold medallist Li Xuerui of China scored a 22-20, 7-21, 21-13 win in the 50-minute semi-final of the BWF Super Series finals Shenzhen (China) on Saturday evening.
The 21-year-old Xuerui demonstrated her indisputable stature having won seven titles earlier this year including the All England championship.
It was a pity that the champion shuttler from India frittered away a handsome advantage having led comfortably at 20-16 in the first game at one stage before the Chinese shuttler changed gears to wrap up the game in 20 minutes.
However, a transformed Saina seemed to be in the mood to make amends and she did in style with a vintage display of classy, cross-court returns and some delectable net drops. In fact, Saina seemed to be in a hurry winning the second one in just 12 minutes.
A phase when the Olympic champion gave an impression of having resigned to the fact to take the issue into the decider.
For when the third game began, Xuerui was a totally different customer though her opponent did match for a while at the start with some decent strokes at the net.
But once Xuerui found her wonted rhythm, the Indian was found wanting. Repeatedly attacking the corners, the Chinese shuttler was a different player with great control over returns. When she induced a weak back hand return into the net and then a forehand out from Saina to lead 13-11, there was virtually no looking back for Xuerui.
For someone who was looking for her third Super Series title having won the Indonesian Open and the Denmark Open this year, Saina seemed to have lost the momentum a bit too quickly in the decider. With Xuerui in no mood to relax and picked points with uncanny precision of her returns, she was a deserving winner. When she essayed a jump smash into the left-corner of Saina which the latter failed to reach, it signalled the end of the Indian’s campaign, which in a way was a lucky one given the fact that she qualified for the semi-final despite two of the three matches in the round-robin league phase here.