Fighting Saina Nehwal crashes out of World C'ship
Glasgow: The much-hoped for all-Indian final at the Badminton World Championships stayed a dream as 22-year-old Nozomi Okuhara, who shocked the defending champion Carolina Marin in the semi-finals on Friday evening, added the silver medallist Saina Nehwal to her list of scalps on Saturday afternoon.
Initially, Saina looked like extending her solid 6-1 head-to-head record against the Japanese as she breezed through the first game. But Okuhara, who love rallies and closes them with half smashes despite her shorter height, fought back and showed superior lasting powers in the next two to win 12-21, 21-17, 21-10 in 74 energy sapping minutes. Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu will take on ninth seed Chinese Chen Yufei in the other semi-final later in the day. The match is expected to start well past 1.30 am IST. On Friday night, Okuhara beat Carolina Marin 21-18, 14-21, 21-15, while Saina Nehwal moved Kirsty Gilmour of Scotland 21-19, 18-21, 21-15 on the adjacent court. Sindhu had beaten Sun Yu (Chn) 21-14, 21-9. While Okuhara stopped Indian girls from creating history, she made history herself by becoming the first Japanese woman to enter a singles final. Interestingly, Okuhara had lost the Olympics semi-finals to PV SIndhu in 2016 in Rio.
It was clear that both players were tired after late matches on Friday. "Yes, playing late matches and getting little time to recover does take a toll. But Okuhara also played late yesterday. I though we might get a different scheduling, but we got to play in the morning," said Saina.
On the difference between first and the next two games, Saina said, "The big difference was that she started picking more difficult shots and play longer rallies. I tried my best to keep up with the rallies and increase my pace, but she was very good today. In the third game she was everywhere and I was confused. She picked up those close drops and went ahead with half smashes and smashes. Actually she was pretty good today." Overall, Saina expressed happiness on the performance, adding, "I am happy with my performance. Being unseeded and reaching the semis and playing best with some of the best players. I gave her (Okuhara) a tough time and maybe I could have won, but it was not my day. This was one of the few semi-finals I played this year, so I am happy." On what could be the plan in coming months, she added, "Yes I am happy with the progress. The more I play the more I will know about them.
I hope I stay fit, and I am in shape and not get injured like last year."
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