Not too long ago, Saina Nehwal was a feared name among women in world’s badminton circuit. She won the China Open in 2014 by defeating Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi and finished Runner-up in 2015 after losing to China’s Li Xuerui. But the 2016 season hasn’t been kind to her. The only major event that the Indian ace won in 2016 was the Australian Open. Spate of injuries forced Saina to remain off courts and although she could manage to reach the semifinals of the India Open, Malaysia Open and Badminton Asia Championships, her performance took a huge beating in other big tournaments. On November 16, Saina played her first match at 2016 China Open after a long injury lay-off. Saina’s knee injury aggravated during Rio Olympics and she was forced to undergo surgery. The rehab took more than three months and she had just a few weeks of training, before the China Open. As a result, Saina looked somewhat sluggish and tentative in her first round match against Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk. However after losing the first game, Saina found her rhythm in the second and forced a decider. In the end that wasn’t enough against the Thai woman, who beat Saina in three games. The Indian said after the match that she was happy with her performance and only the loss of stamina allowed Buranaprasertsuk to take the match away from her. But the former world no.1 looked hungry for a win and that should be regarded as a good sign by her fans. Olympic silver winning Indian PV Sindhu, however, has already entered the semifinals of the tournament and now faces Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun for a place in the final. The Indian challenge in the men’s draw ended with Ajay Jayaram losing to China’s Olympic champion Chen Long in the quarterfinals. The other notable result from the China Open was the quarterfinal loss of Spain’s world no.1 and Olympic gold medalist Carolina Marin.
In the 2016 Thaihot China Open, Saina Nehwal finally made her comeback on the badminton court after her knee surgery. She played her first match after the second-round exit at the Rio Games. Saina had gone out of fray at Rio after losing to Ukrainian world no.61 Marija Ulitina in straight games. On November 16, Saina faced Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk and looked out-of-sorts in the first game that she lost. However, the 2014 champion played much better in the second and forced the decider by winning it. However, Saina looked tired in third game and her error count rose. That allowed the Thai woman to take the match 21-16, 19-21, 21-14. Despite the loss, Saina wasn’t too disappointed. She said that playing three months after a tough surgery was an emotional moment for her and she had plenty of scope for further improvement.
Olympic silver medalist PV Sindhu reached the semifinal on November 18 by defeating the in-form Chinese He Bingjiao. Sindhu had a tough time in the first game as the Chinese rode on local support and held a game point against the Indian. But after snatching the first game, Sindhu overpowered Bingjiao in the second to win at 22-20, 21-10. For the chance of winning 2016 China Open, Sindhu will have to beat Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, who outlasted Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in a nervy battle. Their match was a fantastic display of long rallies lasting 70 minutes before the Korean prevailed at 22-20, 10-21, 21-18. In a surprise result, Olympic champion and world no.1 Carolina Marin was defeated by Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying. Tai took the first game easily and despite Marin trying to force the decider, the Taiwanese woman prevailed at 21-10, 22-20.
In men’s draw, India’s challenge ended with Ajay Jayaram losing to world no.1 and Olympic gold medalist Chen Long of China. In the earlier round on November 17, Jayaram had made a great comeback against Hong Kong’s Wei Nan by winning at 20-22, 21-19, 21-12 but Chen Long proved too powerful for Jayaram. The Chinese needed just 40 minutes in beating Jayaram 21-15, 21-14. In the absence of world no.1 Lee Chong Wei, Malaysian Iskandar Zulkarnain played a masterful quarterfinal against China’s Qiao Bin to set up a semifinal clash with Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen. Zulkarnain defeated Bin 21-19, 21-7 while Jorgensen beat another Chinese Tian Houwei 14-21, 21-16, 21-14. The other men’s semifinal will see Chen Long playing against Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, who defeated Japan’s Takuma Ueda 21-11, 21-6.
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