The Indian shuttle express seems to have hit a wall. Saina Nehwal may have left the Gopi Chand academy to train with Vimal Kumar, but that didn't show in an improved game as she lost to Chinese former world champion Wang Yihan 18-21, 21-9, 21-7 in the quarter-finals at the Gyeyang Gymnasium hall in Incheon, South Korea on Friday.
There was nothing much the Indian could do against the former world No.1 once she change tactics and took her game to a different level. With coach Vimal Kumar at the courtside, Saina, whose win-loss record against Wang stood at 1-7 before Friday's clash, was expected to make a match of it.
The game too was drifting in the right direction with Saina taking the first game at 18-21, relying on powerful smashes and net dribbles and also winning a majority of the long rallies.
But then the tall Chinese began pushing Saina to the limit, tiring the Indian with her dribbles and control. Hardly using any power, Wang kept tossing to the back court and following it up with deft placements to ensure Saina was sapped of energy before she took the court for the second game.
"She played very soft strokes in the first games and came quickly to the net, but I countered them with smashes. However, the fight in the first left me tired... I could not even go for some retrievals as I was tired," said Saina.
"If I had the same quality of game in the second, I think I could have won. At the end of the day, I am happy I could pull one game from her."
Asked about her stint under coach Vimal Kumar, she said, "I felt my movements were good and improvement was visible. My movements during the World Championships (at Copenhagen in August) weren't all that great. I was struggling running back and forth, but now I see a lot of change.
"It will take time for me to also improve my lateral movements, but the fortnight-long stint under Vimal has helped," said Saina, indicating that she is not going to go back to the Gopi Chand academy in a hurry.
"There is visible change and I need some more time to improve. Let us see... it's not that easy a decision (to go back)," she said.
Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Parupalli Kashyap lost to top-ranked Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia 12-21, 11-21 in the pre-quarter-finals in 34 minutes while S Kidambi lost to Son Wanho 21-19, 11-21, 11-21 in another pre-quarters tie.