Saina Nehwal has entered a super-series final after a long time. But the manner in which she made her way for the title clash in Sydney’s Xiamenair Australian Badminton Super-series was creditworthy. The Indian was up against an opponent, who had always come in her way in the past. But on Saturday, Saina held the upper hand in whitewashing no.4 seed Wang Yihan of China. In their last 15 meeting, Saina had lost to Yihan 11 times and therefore the dice was loaded firmly in favor of the Chinese. But Saina played dominating badminton in seeing off Yihan in just 31 minutes. On Sunday, Saina will have to deal with another Chinese, Sun Yu, who got the better of her Olympic champion compatriot Li Xuerui also in two games. India’s pleasure was halved, when Kidambi Srikanth bowed out in the semifinal. The Indian lost to Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus after fighting hard in the first game but the Dane certainly played a superior second game. Vittinghus will fight for the men’s singles title on Sunday with Korea’s Jeon Hyeok Jin, who squeezed past Indonesia’s upcoming star Anthony Ginting.
On Saturday, India’s Saina Nehwal shrugged off her past poor head-to-head record against Wang Yihan in the first women’s singles semifinal of the Xiamenair Australian Badminton Super-series tournament at Sydney. Saina made a great start and led Yihan 7-1 early in the first game. She kept forcing the Chinese into errors and enhanced her lead to 11-2 at break. The 2014 Australian Open winner Saina kept the pressure after the break by playing a combo of down-the-line and cross-court smashes and aimed at Yihan’s body to collect her points before winning the first game. She yielded just 8 points to the Chinese no.4 seed. The second game was no different. After 3-3, Saina pulled away clearly to lead all the way to finish with Yihan caught stranded at times. The 26-year old Indian from Hyderabad led 11-4 at the break and never lost ground before winning at 21-8, 21-12 in mere 31 minutes.
In the final on Sunday, Saina will play against another Chinese Sun Yu, who shocked her no.3 seeded compatriot Li Xuerui. Yu had previously beaten Li only once in the last eight matches between them and Li was clearly the favorite at start. But Li didn’t lose tamely and kept reversing Yu’s lead until the score reached 18-18 in the first game. But from there, Yu reeled off the required three points and pocketed the first game. In the second game, Li was the leader at most times and she stood on the verge of forcing a decider at 18-13. But Yu fought back to reel off six straight points and led 19-18. Li’s last chance came at 19-19 but Yu prevailed in the end, winning the match 21-18, 21-19 in 46 minutes. Against Sun Yu, Saina leads 5-1 going by their head-to-head victory counts, but every day is different. Besides Yu is a vastly improved player these days and Saina had better be careful.
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