An erratic Saina Nehwal failed to defend her title at the Indonesian Super Series Premier after suffering a three-game defeat to Germany’s Juliane Schenk in the semifinals of the women’s singles competition here today.
World number two Saina, who won the title three times — in 2009, 2010 and 2012 — lost 21-12 13-21 14-21 to Schenk, ranked fourth, in a contest that lasted for 52 minutes at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno stadium.
It was not Saina’s day as the Indian, who holds a 8-3 record against the German, was too erroneous in the execution of her strokes, which helped her opponent to seal a place in the final.
In the first game, Juliane took a 12-10 lead after a fierce battle early on, but Saina wrested back the advantage by involving the German in long rallies and catching up her at the net.
Juliane failed to gauge Saina’s strokes and faltered with her execution as she kept hitting long and found the net too often to allow the Indian to race away with the first game with straight 11 points. Saina sealed the game with an over-the-head half smash.
After changing sides, Juliane moved to a 4-0 lead in a flash as nothing went Saina’s way. The Indian tried to engage Juliane in rallies and kept pushing the shuttle back and froth but Juliane was up to the task as she moved to 6-0 with Saina hitting wide.
Egged on by a vociferous crowd who chanted ‘Saina Saina’, the Indian gathered four points but Juliane had her nose ahead at 11-4 during the interval.
Juliane kept the shuttle flat during serve, retrieved everything and smashed hard to move to 14-6. A couple of missed strokes at the net gave Saina two points but the Indian committed too many unforced errors to allow Juliane gain nine game points at 20-11.
Saina saved two game points but Juliane soon roared back into the contest with an elegant cross-court flick at the nets which caught the Indian napping at the forecourt.
In the decider, Saina looked to play more rallies but Juliane matched the Indian and waited for her to commit mistakes. Saina once again started hitting long and wide to allow Juliane to get hold of the lead at 6-4.
Juliane looked at ease and her smashes and aggressive net play left Saina looking for answers as the German went into the breather at 11-5.
After the breather, Juliane found the net and hit long to give Saina a couple of points but the Indian once again failed to get the length of her stokes right as Juliane reached 14-7.
Saina tried to keep her cool and tried to push Juliane to make mistakes to slowly narrow the gap to 14-16.
However, a cross court smash, a brilliant net play and another down the line smash helped Juliane to make it 19-14.
What came next was a long rally, which culminated with Saina hitting wide, giving Juliane six match points. Another missed point at the net, and Juliane was celebrating.
Juliane will next take on the winner of world number one Xuerui Li of China and Pui Yin Yip of Hong Kong.