India's ace shuttler Saina Nehwal scripted history by becoming the first Indian to enter the final of the badminton World Championships after defeating a stubborn Lindaweni Fanetri 21-17, 21-17 in a women's singles semi-final in Jakarta on Saturday.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina, currently the World No.2, prevailed against the world No.29 Fanetri in a 55-minute encounter.
In the final on Sunday, the 25-year-old Nehwal will meet defending champion and top seed Carolina Marin of Spain, who overcame eight seeded South Korean Sung Ji Hyun 21-17, 15-21, 21-16 in one hour and 30 minutes. Saina holds a 3-1 advantage in career meetings against the world No.1.
Going into the match, Saina was the heavy favourite but her Indonesian opponent got a very good start. Saina took some time to gain momentum as Fanetri held a 6-2 lead. But once the former World No.1 founder her rhythm, she seized the initiative and pushed her rival on the backfoot.
Fanetri was forced to play catch up but remained close to Saina's score at the Istora Senayan stadium. The Hyderabadi held a three-point lead at 14-11 but Fanetri kept coming back, equalising at 15-all. They were involved in a long rallies for the next two points.
However, at 17-17, Saina utilised her experience and finished the game in her favour by taking three consecutive points. Saina's deft net play played a key role in getting the better of the local talent of her same age.
At the start of the second game, when the score read 2-1 in favour of strong favourite Saina, Fanetri suffered a knock to her heavily bandaged right knee after a fall but continued her fight. Urged on by a vociferous partisan crowd, Fanetri kept fighting on even though she seemed to be struggling in her movement on the court.
At the break, the second seeded Indian held a 11-10 lead at the break before Fanetri equalised. Saina grabbed three points at a stretch to make it 14-11 but Fanetri equalised at the same score with sharp drop shots.
But Saina fought back for a 17-14 lead before her opponent employed two sharp smashes to make it 16-17. Saina got two more points before her opponent reduced the deficit to one at 18-17.
However, Saina once again wrestled the key moments as she bagged three consecutive points to seal the game 21-17 and march into the final.