Making a constant improvement in her game, no.1 seed Saina Nehwal of India held her nerves against China’s Wang Yihan in the semifinal on Saturday and entered the final of 2015 China Open with a straight games victory over the seventh-seeded Chinese. The last hurdle for Saina on Sunday is former world no.1 Li Xuerui, who came through by overpowering her compatriot and no.5 seed Wang Shixian with surprising ease. Li has been in great form in the tournament and she hasn’t dropped a single game so far. Saina must have noticed that she will have to produce her best performance against Li, in order to retain her 2014 crown. In the men’s draw, former world no.1 Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei fought hard against old rival Lin Dan of China before coming through in three games lasting over 1½ hours. In the title game on Sunday, Lee will face another Chinese Chen Long, who had no trouble beating Korea’s Son Wan Ho in the other semifinal. Chinese badminton stars will feature in the finals of every category on Sunday and theoretically, they can make a clean sweep of their home tournament.
When Saina Nehwal took to the court at the Haixia Olympics Sports Centre Fuzhou on Saturday to face local favorite Wang Yihan, even her most ardent supporters wouldn’t have given her an outright chance. Not because, Saina is not capable, but in the last 2-3 months, her court movements have become labored due to the abdomen and heel injuries. Yihan has been having a great time recently and didn’t drop a game on her way to the semifinal. On the other hand, Saina had problems in her early rounds but once she defeated Nozomi Okuhara in the quarters, she got her confidence back. On Saturday, Saina was at her best as she matched the Chinese in the first game. In the early stages, it became difficult to tell, which way the match would go. However once the score reached 14-13, Saina reeled off eight straight points and took the first game. In the second game, Yihan kept Saina on her toes and the two women fought for every point. Saina had a momentary lapse of concentration with Yihan coming up with some lovely placements. With the entire stadium rooting for Yihan, Saina came under pressure even as the scores came level at 17-17. This was the time for Saina to show her control, which she did and allowed just one more point to Yihan and entered her second successive China Open final with a 21-13, 21-8 victory. In the final on Sunday, Saina will face former world no.1 Li Xuerui, who defeated compatriot Wang Shixian 21-14, 21-5 in a nearly one-sided contest.
In men’s draw, Malaysia’s former world no.1 Lee Chong Wei faced the formidable Chinese Lin Dan, who has had an enviable record at world scene over the last decade. Lin Dan is a double Olympic medalist in singles and his form has elevated him to no.3 in the recently published world rankings. Malaysia’s Lee is no less a celebrity but he has run into bad times because of doping accusations. After the 8-month ban, Lee has shown constant improvements. The two badminton greats fought an epic semifinal battle on Saturday that lasted 92 minutes, before Lee edged out Lin Dan in three games. The Malaysian lost the first game but came back strongly in the second to force a decider. The two rivals fought neck-to-neck in the third game before Lee managed a 17-21, 21-19, 21-19 victory. Lee’s victory also broke his losing jinx against Lin Dan. It was the 35th meeting between the two arch-rivals and 10th victory for the Malaysian. In Sunday’s final, Lee will take on another Chinese Chen Long, who is currently rated world no.1 and he has not dropped a game in the 2015 China Open yet. For Lee, it will be a monumental challenge to beat the current world no.1.
Chinese badminton players also reached the finals in men, women and mixed doubles categories on Saturday. In women’s doubles China’s Tang Yuanting/Yu Yang beat compatriots Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei 21-13, 21-19. For the title, Yuanting/Yang will play the top seeded Japanese duo of Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, who scored a 21-18, 21-17 victory over Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee. In men’s doubles semifinals, China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei defeated Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Cheol 21-15, 21-19 to set up a title clash with another Korean pair Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang. The Kims defeated Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakwa 21-17, 21-18. In the mixed doubles top seeded Chinese pair of Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei scored a 21-19, 21-11 win over compatriots Xu Chen/Ma Jin. For the title on Sunday, the Chinese will take on Denmark’s no. 5 seeds Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen. On their part, the Danes defeated China’s no.4 seeds Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin 21-16, 21-19.
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