Saina Nehwal loses to Nozomi Okuhara in World Badminton Championships semis

Saina Nehwal’s dream of winning a World Championship came to an end as she lost to Nozomi Okuhara in the semifinals of World Badminton Championships.

other sports Updated: Aug 26, 2017 22:01 IST
Sandip Sikdar
Sandip Sikdar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Saina Nehwal,Nozomi Okuhara,World Badminton Championships
India's Saina Nehwal reacts after her loss against Nozomi Okuhara in World Championships semi-final.(AFP)

Saina Nehwal’s dream of winning a World Championship will have to wait for at least another year as the Indian shuttler settled for a bronze after going down in a slugfest that lasted an hour and 14 minutes in Glasgow.

An all-India final was on the cards after both PV Sindhu and Saina qualified for the semi-finals but those hopes vanished when the 12th seed lost 21-12, 17-21, 10-21 to seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara, who had lost six out of seven meetings to Saina before Saturday’s match. (MATCH HIGHLIGHTS)

The World No.12 Japanese came out with her best game and tired out Saina to proceed to her maiden World Badminton Championships final. In the process, Nozomi has defeated the two women who played the final of the last edition of the Worlds (Saina and Spain’s Carolina Marin) in consecutive matches.

Saina however should not lose heart as she has become only the second Indian after Sindhu to have won multiple World Championships medals. She had to settle for silver in 2015.

Ever since her knee injury at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Saina has not been able to regain her winning edge.

Though she won a tournament – the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold – in January, the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist has not been able to reach her prime – something that led her to the World No 1 spot and also the 2015 World Championships final.

READ | PV Sindhu ‘prepared for semis’ at World Badminton Championships

Meanwhile, Sindhu had taken the spotlight after winning silver in Rio last year.

However, reaching the last four stage at this prestigious event and returning with a bronze is no mean feat for a shuttler who never dropped out of the world’s top-10 until now.

But a final was not on the cards this time around.

The 27-year-old took off brilliantly in the first game. Saina moved well, did not give her opponent chances and kept her on the edge throughout the first game. The former World No 1 showed glimpses of playing like the Saina of old. She took the game 21-12.

Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in action against India's Saina Nehwal. (REUTERS)

Coach U Vimal Kumar was smiling and clapping by courtside, happy with the way her protégé was playing.

Nozomi had to fight back in the second game, and she did well. The Japanese, who won a bronze at Rio Olympics, made sure she stayed in the lead, however slender it was so that it would help her close the game.

Saina levelled the game four times but her opponent, younger to Saina by five years, won four straight points from 17-17 to push the semi-final into the decider.

The momentum had shifted and with that Saina’s intensity too had dropped. After dominating the first game, she allowed Nozomi to fight back and level the match.

READ | PV Sindhu rises a spot, K. Srikanth slips in latest badminton rankings

Saina started exactly the way she would have wanted to in the third game, with a 3-0 lead.

But she was tired by then. The agility she had displayed in the first game evaporated. Simultaneously, Nozomi found a surge of energy and won nine straight points to go 10-3 in the lead.

At this point the Japanese seventh seed was clearly outplaying Saina who had nothing going her way.

Nozomi made Saina run around a lot and bagged the contest in quick time to move into the final where she will await the winner of the semi-final between Sindhu and China’s Chen Yufei.

First Published: Aug 26, 2017 21:19 IST