Press Trust of India
New Delhi, April 2: Defending champion Saina Nehwal’s title defence went up in smoke after she suffered a narrow loss to Olympic Champion Li Xuerui in the semifinals of the India Open Super Series badminton tournament here Saturday.
The 26-year-old Indian lost 20-22, 21-17, 19-21 to Li in an edge-of-the-seat thriller in the women’s singles match, to draw curtains on Indian challenge at the Siri Fort Complex here.
In a nail-biting contest, Saina matched up to Li in the fast-paced rallies but she was not consistent in finishing those. Li, on the other hand, blew hot and cold through the match and gave Saina some opportunities which the Indian failed to capitalise.
In both the first and third games, Saina had opportunities and she led in both. But then committed some unforced errors to lose both the games. Had she utilised the chances that came her way, she would have been in the final instead of the Chinese.
In the first game, Saina led 8-5 and 19-17. But on both occasions, she failed to finish off the rallies and lost the game. In the second game, Saina zoomed to a 7-1 lead with Li committing too many unforced errors. She maintained that lead to 11-6 and 17-14 with the Chinese always playing the catch up game. Eventually Saina managed to close the game at 17.
In the decider, Saina once again marched ahead to a 6-2 lead and took it 11-7 at the break. But just when it seemed the match was hers, Li roared back in style to tie the score at 18-all. A visibly dejected Saina then missed two easy shots to hand the match to Li.