Shuttler Saina Nehwal once again faltered at the semi-final stage as she suffered a straight games defeat at the hands of China’s Wang Yihan in the women’s singles event to bring an end to the Indian challenge at the Asia Badminton Championships in Wuhan on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Indian failed to match the sharp play from Yihan as she went down 16-21, 14-21 in 41 minutes at the Wuhan Sports Center.
This loss was the 2015 World Championship runner-up’s 11th in 15 meetings against the 2011 world champion and 2012 silver medallist.
The World No 8 Indian started on a decent note, making it 9-6 before the World No 6 Chinese equalised 10-all. Then Yihan upped the ante with a dominant performance. Four points at a stretch meant it was 14-10 and after Saina took a point, another two quick points for Yihan made it 16-11.
Thereafter, Yihan piled further pressure on the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist before taking the game 21-16.
In the second game, 28-year-old Yihan made her intentions clear from the beginning. Taking cue from the way she finished the first game, she combined stamina, power, deception and quick feet to hold a 11-4 lead at the break. And it soon became 13-4 after which Saina took three consecutive points to make it 7-13.
Yihan then added more sharpness to her game as she took five points at a stretch to put herself on the verge of entry to the final. Then Saina took a couple of points but Yihan gained two more points to reach match point.
Then Saina delayed Yihan’s celebration for a bit as she won five points on the trot. But Yihan won eventually, shutting the door yet another shot for the Indian at an elusive Asian crown.
Earlier this year, the world number eighth Indian had made semifinal finishes in the Swiss Grand Prix Gold, India Super Series and Malaysia Super Series Premier Open before skipping the Singapore Open this month.
Sunday’s final pits Yihan against her famed compatriot, the reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui, who moved past South Korean seventh seed Sung Ji Hyun 22-20, 21-11 in 40 minutes.
Both Yihan and Xuerui have won nine games against each other and will be vying to earn their third Asian title.