On a day when Indians were hoping for an all Indian final for the first time in the history of badminton in a tournament equal or higher than the Super Series level, Saina Nehwal put rest to the dreams in the first half of the day itself! A spirited Okuhara wrote her off after a set down to push the Indian out!
The first semifinal of the women’s singles at the World Badminton championship in Glasgow, Scotland saw the former world No.1 Saina Nehwal go down fighting after a great start 21-12, 17-21, 10-21 to Okuhara of Japan.
The world number 12 Indian who was coming back into the tournament after a serious knee injury had a wonderful run until today. On the other hand, her counterpart has just extended her impressive winning run which started from winning the Australian Open to beating two-time defending world champion Carolina Marin in the quarterfinal.
The game started off with the Indian taking control of the game. The Japenese who played a 96min marathon match just within 24hrs seemed to be less energetic as compared to the Indian who had a relatively shorter 73min match against the local favorite, 16th seeded 23yr old Kristy Gilmour who created history by being the first British woman to reach the world championship quarterfinal in the last 10yrs.
Saina Nehwal converted the initial start into a quick lead and then went on to win the set with ease at 21-12. The shorter Japanese looked no chance with physical disadvantage and bad line judgment. But things didn’t take long to change. Okuhara, who had won just once against Saina in the past (World Superseries Finals, 2015 in Dubai) looked spirit to shrug off the records and create history by becoming the first Japanese woman to reach the World Championship Women’s Singles finals.
The second set started in the trailer’s favor and Saina made sure that she was always in catching distance. The scores were level at 17-17 when Saina’s mistakes handed Okuhara a quick 2 point lead who then went on to close the game and force the match into set 3. Set 2 was full of long fierce rallies and both players stretched the other to all the corners of the court. While Saina was rearing to cruise into the finals in straight sets, Okuhara was resilient and fought back. Each of the players had to sweat out for every point and badminton of extremely high quality was up for the spectators.
Set 3 was the whole of a disappointment for the majority of the crowd, who backed the Indian, as Saina never looked in the game after an initial 3-1 lead. Okuhara then broke the serve to win 9 straight points and went into the break at 11-4. Saina Nehwal, who was heavily strapped on her right thigh looked exhausted and physically drained. She was unable to cover the court swiftly and the short Japenese won the points by forcing Saina into unforced errors at the net game.
Things looked a lot clear and the game out of sight for the Indian by the break and things never changed even later, she gave some glimpses of her shots later in the game with strong smashes but it was too late and Okuhara sailed into the finals with a final set of 21-10.
In this grueling encounter that lasted for 75mins, what mattered most was the physicality and the composure of the players and on the day Okuhara was a lot better than the silver medallist of the previous edition of the World Championship, Jakarta 2015 who just returned from a knee injury. So, it was a great tournament for Saina Nehwal considering the other factors, a bronze at the world championships is no less! She has made us proud once again! Let’s just wish she gets back to form and gets back to the World No.1 spot again that she donned for 14 weeks in 2015!