The Hindu

Saina enters final



Defending champion Saina Nehwal is just one step away from retaining her women’s singles title at the $700,000 China Open Super Series Premier badminton.

The Olympic bronze medallist on Saturday sealed the final spot after notching up a 21-13, 2118 win over China’s Yihan Wang, a 2011 World champion and 2012 London Olympics silver medallist, in the semifinals.

Up against one of her toughest rivals, who has beaten her nine times, Saina showed her prowess as she fought back from 2-4 down in the opening game and prevailed in a gruelling battle in the second to outclass Wang.

The top-seeded Indian will next take on Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China, an opponent against whom she has lost nine times and the only wins coming during the 2012 Indonesia Open and Singapore Open Super Series in 2010.

In the first game, Saina took time to get off the mark as Wang surged to a 2-0 lead early on. The Chinese led 5-3 before Saina reeled off six straight points to zoom ahead to a 9-5 lead and held an 11-7 advantage at the break. After the interval, Wang caught up at 11-11 but Saina changed gears, and a sevenpoint burst from 14-13 helped her to pocket the opening game.

The second game turned out to be a thriller as lead exchanged hands too frequently. Saina led 9-6 at one stage and even though Wang clawed back at 10-10, the Indian wrested a slender 13-11 lead soon.

What ensued next is a tough fight for each points as they moved neck and neck before Saina marched ahead to seal the issue in her favour.

“It’s amazing to be in the final. Beating Wang Yihan in the semifinals is a big achievemen­t as she’s been playing well. It was a good match today,” Saina said after the match.

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