When Saina Nehwal had won bronze at the London Games after China's Wang Xin conceded the match, she had said that it was the first time ever that she had won in this manner. Little did she know that the second time was going to come in the very next tournament.
In the Denmark Open
Super Series Premier's semifinal, Saina looked on course for an upset victory over her nemesis Wang Yihan and was leading 21-12, 12-7 when the Chinese conceded the match. She was playing with a strapped right knee and just two points back, it seemed the pain was becoming unbearable.
And so, Saina has entered her maiden Denmark Open final and will vie for the title with Germany's world No. 7 Juliane Schenk. The German had already taken out another Chinese - Jiang Yanjiao - with a 13-21, 21-14, 21-15 win in the other semifinal. This is the third women's final in 2012 (at the Super Series level), which will not feature a Chinese player, especially when four of the top five Chinese players were in the fray. Late on Friday, Saina had outplayed local favourite Tine Baun 20-10, 21-11.
Wang Yihan is the world No.1 and London Games silver-medallist. She is also the 2011 world champion and 2009 all-England champion. Before Saturday, Saina had faced her six times, tasting defeat on each of those occasions.
"To win against Yihan, whom Saina has not beaten till now, is a great achievement. I would have loved to see her finish the match, but the good news is that Saina is now in the final and has a shot at the title," chief national coach Pullela Gopichand told HT from Hyderabad.
Yihan's movements looked rusty from the first game itself and the world No 4 Indian grabbed every chance to smash the shuttle hard. An unforced error here and a net shot there did nothing to deter Saina's focus.
Saina holds an impressive 5-3 head-to-head record against Schenk. But the German has been in terrific form this year, with four final appearances, though converting just one into title victory. She won the Singapore Open just before the Olympics. Till now, Saina has enjoyed a comfortable run in the tournament, winning all her matches in straight games. The final might not be that kind on her.