The Indian will now take on Wang Xin, another Chinese, for the bronze
She may be a tigress on the court, shouldering the expectations of a billion people in the hunt for a medal, but badminton star Saina Nehwal had no answers to the prowess of world No.1 Wang Yihan of China as she lost 21-13, 21-13 in the semifinals of women’s singles at the Wembley Arena here on Friday.
The tall and athletic Chinese came to the match, sporting a knee cap and a back-support belt, kindling the hopes of the Indian camp. But Yihan’s game and firepower was too good as she toyed with Saina.
Saina took the first point with a smash and matched her opponent initially as the serve kept changing after every point. The Indian was sharp with her net dribbles and moved her opponent well as she handled the challenge with confidence.
Unable to keep pace
However, when Yihan, who has never lost to Saina in their five previous meetings, stepped up her game, Saina could not keep pace.
Once she took the lead at 5-4, the Chinese operated at a different level, smashing briskly and putting the shuttle beyond Saina’s reach. There was no doubt that Saina lacked the flexibility and the speed of Yihan; and her reactions too were a bit slow.
Saina herself had no hesitation in accepting that the Chinese was “too fast”’ for her comfort.
As it turned out, Yihan raced ahead as she reached 17-7 with a mix of smashes, drops, placements even as Saina lost her confidence and gave a few free points with uncharacteristic errors.
There was a bit of a revival when Saina won six points to two by her opponent. But that was mainly because the Chinese took her foot off the pedal and made a few errors, after the Indian had come up with two winners. Yihan then got her focus back as she clinched the first game with a smash.
In the second game, Saina fought hard as she recovered from 3-6 to be on par at 8-8 and even managed to take a 12-11 lead with a classy drop.
However, the Chinese allowed Saina only one more point and cruised into the final, winning 10 points in two spells with authority.
“She was much better prepared. I was not moving so well. She hit so many shots on the line,” said Saina, as she admired the superlative game of the Chinese even as she made no attempt to admit her inadequacy on the biggest stage.
“She was too fast and I made a few errors. I was not reading her serve properly,” said Saina, explaining as to how the Chinese managed to tap so many lollipops on top of the net straight at her body for sure points.
Yihan was confident of winning the gold and said that she was happy to get over the initial nervousness in beating Saina. “I made some mistakes in the first set and my coach warned me about these.
“In the beginning of the first set I was nervous and there were some problems in my strategy. The pressure was on the Indian after I won the first game. I had the confidence that I would win,” said Yihan.
Saina said that there was no problem with the recovery and that she felt physically fine except for being a bit slow on the court.
“I was playing well and leading 11-10 as well, but she played better,” said Saina, admitting that she would have to be better prepared against Wang Xin, the other Chinese, in the match for the bronze medal and assured that she would give her best. Xin lost to compatriot Li Xuerui 22-20, 21-18.
Though Saina has a 2-4 win-loss record against Xin, the Indian has beaten her twice in the last three meetings.
In fact, she beat her in straight games in the league phase of the Super Series Finals in December last year.