She sets up a clash with world no. 1 Wang Yihan; Lee Chong Wei cuts short Kashyap’s gallant run

Saina Nehwal took another decisive step forward towards the much-desired Olympic medal as she made the semifnals of women’s singles with a 21-15, 22-20 victory over Tine Baun of Denmark at the Wembley Arena in London on Thursday.

Caught in a tricky situation when she faced three game points in the second game, Saina turned the match around by stepping up her game even as the tall Dane wilted under mounting pressure. She reeled off five points in a row to close the contest in 39 minutes, and conserved her energy for the tougher battles ahead.

Saina had actually recovered from 15-18 when her opponent had won five points in a row to bridge the gap. She was composed and played with considerable clarity. She may have to be a lot more sharp and energetic to get out the ‘chakravyuh’ of the Chinese.

It was Saina’s all-round game that pulled her through even as tine Baun with whom she had tied a career win-loss record at 3-3 before Thursday, tended to smash to her left for decisive points and stretched her quite a bit with deft placing.

Saina had won three of the last four meetings and thus had the confidence to set up a date with the Chinese.

Saina, who had lost from a position of strength in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Games when she was 18 and inexperienced, will take on the top-seeded Wang Yihan of China in the semifinals.

It was a remarkable breakthrough for Sania, as she had not crossed the quarterfinals of the World Championship in three attempts, after having crowned herself as the world junior champion in 2008.

“I am happy because it was one of my dreams to play in the Olympic semifinals. Last time in the quarterfinals I was 11-3 up, I still can’t forget that,’’ said Saina, quite elated about breaking the quarterfinals jinx.

As expected, all the three Chinese made the semifinals, with Li Xuerui and Wang Xin setting up the other clash.

There was a lot support for the Indian girl, and Saina said that she felt at home in London.

“I feel like winning for them. I am happy that the Olympics is in London. It feels that half the people are Indian here,” she said.

Saina has not won a match against Wang Yihan, but it has been three-set affairs in three of her five losses in the last three years.

One of the loss came earlier this year in the Malaysian Open.

“I am getting much closer to the medal but I never think about the future. I am just thinking about tomorrow’s match because the competition is strong,’’ was the cautious response of Wang Yihan.

Brave performance

The dream run of P. Kashyap ended at the hands of the top seed Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the men’s quarterfinals. The Indian went down fighting 19-21, 11-21.

It was a brave performance by Kashyap as he led 12-8 in the first game, before the Malaysian found his rhythm to turn the tide in his favour. Lee came up with deft drop shots to win three points in a row to clinch the first game, closing out with a crisp tap after a smash.

In the second game, Kashyap initially offered resistance, but the Malaysian powered to a quick finish, winning straight six points from 13-8 and cut out all escape routes for the young Indian.

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