BadmintonWhile Kidambi Srikanth truly had a steep hurdle against world badminton champion and top seed Chen Long of China, Saina Nehwal’s semifinal loss to Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying was heartbreaking for the Indian star and her huge fan following. Saina had already beaten Wang Shixian and fared creditably against two more talented opponents to reach the round of four. With such an invincible run in the tournament, Saina was expected to see off the challenge posed by Tai. The Indian began well and then made errors, she usually doesn’t make. After winning the first game easily and showing early promise in the second, Saina fell to a suddenly rejuvenated Taiwanese to go out of the tournament.

Against Tai, the 24-year old Saina began with a scorching pace and the Chinese Taipei star was befuddled as to how to deal with the Indian’s aggression. After taking the first game 21-11, Saina raced away to a 4-0 lead in the second. The entire Dubai crowd had already started celebrating, when Tai turned on her magic spell. All of sudden, Saina had to stop in her tracks as Tai began producing delayed flicks, tight shots just above the net, smashes and delicately placed drop shots. Tai first leveled the score at 4-4 and then went ahead 5-4. Showing commendable anticipation at the net, Tai enhanced her lead to 11-6 at the break. For a short while, Saina seemed to find her rhythm and change of strategy helped her level at 12-12. After that the Indian scored just one more point because Tai was back with her magic show and reeling off 5 points in a row, led 17-12 before taking the second game 21-13. In the third game, Saina’s game lost the momentum and Tai continued with her relentless pressure. The Taiwanese led 6-2 at the start with deceptive shots and amazing backhand smashes. Saina looked unsettled at this point and her unforced error count went up. With Tai improving her play, Saina was bereft of fresh ideas. At the break, Tai led 11-3 and then raced away to a deserved 11-21, 21-13, 21-7 victory. In the final, the Taiwanese girl will take on the might Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, who crushed the challenge from Japanese sensation Akane Yamaguchi 21-13, 21-13. Yamaguchi admitted that she didn’t have enough power against the seasoned Korean, whose quick reflexes, aggressive style and height worked to her advantage.

Further shock awaited Indian supporters, when Kidambi Srikanth lost to the top seed Chen Long of China. Srikanth began well and built an impressive 16-10 lead in the opening game. But Chen Long is not the world champion for nothing as he reeled off 11 out of the 13 points in the first game to leave the Indian benumbed. In the next game, Chen Long continued the momentum and didn’t allow any liberty to Srikanth before wrapping up the match 21-18, 21-9.

For the title round on Sunday, Chen Long will meet Denmark’s Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, who scored his career’s most memorable victory in the other semifinal, when he beat compatriot Jan O Jorgensen 21-11, 21-17. Vittinghus began with speed and accuracy in his play against Jorgensen, whom he had never beaten thus far. But in yesterday’s match, Jorgensen looked off-color, and struggled against Vittinghus. Jorgensen raised his play a little bit in the second game to lead 12-8 but Vittinghus leveled and took the lead once again. With Jorgensen making more unforced errors, it became easy for Vittinghus.

The last session’s play on Saturday belonged to China with three victories in the paired events. Defending Mixed Doubles champions Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen crashed out to Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin 21-13 21-12; Women’s Doubles World champions Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei defeated the Koreans Jung Kyung Eun/Kim Ha Na 21-9 21-9, and Chai Biao/Hong Wei edged out the Japanese pair of Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa 18-21 21-15 21-12 in men’s doubles.

On Sunday, the Chinese will feature in all finals, except the women’s singles. They have already assured themselves of the Mixed Doubles as China’s Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei defeated England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock: 21-9 21-12 and they will face compatriots Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin. In men’s singles, Chen Long will take on Vittinghus; in women doubles, Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei will meet the Japanese pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi. The Japanese won a great battle against China’s Luo Ying/Luo Yu in 98 minutes before coming through 21-14 13-21 21-14. In men’s doubles; Korean duo of Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong defeated Denmark’s Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen 21-15, 21-16 and they will take on China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei.