India’s ace woman shuttler Saina Nehwal kept her hopes alive of picking her first Super Series title this year when she got the better of two-time All England champion Tine Baun of Denmark 21-13, 21-23, 21-13 win in the 56-minute, quarter-final of the BWF Malaysian Super Series badminton championship in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
The World No. 5 from India was at her best in the first game clearly dominating the proceedings with a clever blend of aggression and wonderful defence at the net. This, despite the score-line reading two-all and three-all to start with.
But, once the 21-year-old Saina surged ahead with a series of impressive cross-court strokes, the more experienced World No. 9 Baun was under pressure which even saw her come up with poor and erratic returns.
Unlike in the recent past, Saina was in no mood to relax and sustained the pressure with a high quality net game to get the better of her opponent to wrap up the first game at 21-13.
In the second game, the 32-year-old Baun surprised her opponent by taking a 5-2 lead with her impeccable ability to pick the corners in Saina’s half. The precision and the placement caught the Indian champion off-guard quite often. However, just when it looked as if the Indian would come up with the familiar tale of letting the game drift away, Saina switched gears to come up with a vastly superior game to not only reduce the lead but surge ahead at 15-13. That was the phase when Baun’s returns were erratic and she gave away quite a few easy points too against the more accurate opponent.
Then, there was an absorbing tussle half-way through in the second game when the Indian looked better taking an 18-16 lead. But, Baun was in no mood to give up as she came back strongly with a couple of real big smashes and cross-court strokes to take the lead at 19-18. Then, Saina returned out to give the Dane a set-point at 20-18. But, to her surprise Saina hit back with an impressive forehand smash to reduce the lead and soon Baun was up with a poor return again to see the scores level again at 20-all. Then, the Indian frittered away a match-point at 21-20 as she was rattled by Baun’s deceptive cross-court returns and then a deep accurate return which saw the latter clinch the second game and take the match into the third game.
The decider was off to a see-saw struggle for supremacy with very little to choose between the two players. But Saina seemed more determined and came up with the big points, the one she scored of a delectable backhand drop to take an 11-8 lead being the pick of them.
Quite a few unforced errors by Baun saw the opponent gain the crucial momentum and what clearly upset the former All England champion was her inability to get the deep returns in. Invariably, high returns were well-judged by Saina who followed the shuttle closely only to leave it out safely to pick important points to take a handsome 17-11 lead.
Significantly, Saina moved with ease on the court often dictating the terms to the seasoned opponent who had to blame herself in the crunch situation in the decider for her poor returns. Two erratic, backhand returns by Baun saw the Indian take a 20-13 lead and when Saina essayed her trademark half-smash into the forecourt leaving Baun stranded, it signalled the Indian’s creditable win.