History was created on Saturday at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham as Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman to reach the final of the prestigious All England Open. The world number three who beat Wang Yihan on Friday continued her amazing run and beat Sun Yu 21-13, 21-13 to make it to the summit clash of the season’s first Superseries Premier event.
Saina Nehwal – fearless and focused
The India number one Saina Nehwal faced an opponent who was brimming with confidence after two upsets. The 18th-ranked Chinese Sun Yu had toppled the world number one Li Xuerui in the second round. In the quarter-finals, she was leading in the third game when the eighth seed Ratchanok Intanon retired due to calf muscle cramp.
The tall and powerful Sun Yu thus took an early lead when she went ahead 7-3. The patient Saina settled down and tried to engage the 21-year-old Chinese in longer rallies. The tactic worked as the third seed started cutting down the lead. By the mid-game interval, she was trailing Sun by just one point at 10-11.
After the break, it was Saina Nehwal who freed up far more and kept on piling the pressure on the Chinese. She jumped out to a lead of 16-12 and then confidently closed out the game 21-13.
In a mirror image of the first game, it was once again Sun Yu who had the early advantage. The initial points of the second game were short and Sun’s powerful smashes were working with precision. But as the points grew longer, she started faltering. From 5-8, Saina closed the gap to 9-11 by virtue of her world class defence.
Post-interval, the Indian shuttle queen had a new spring in her steps. She kept on unleashing a barrage of attacking shots that totally put Sun off balance.
Nehwal quickly built an advantage of 14-12 as Sun looked more and more clueless. From 14-13, the India #1 won seven points on the trot to make her entry into her maiden final at the All England Open in 50 minutes.
Up next: Carolina Marin
Saina Nehwal next faces sixth seed and reigning World Champion Carolina Marin in the final on Sunday. Marin beat seventh seed Tai Tzu Ying 21-18, 21-11 in the other semi-final.
Saina leads the Spaniard 3-0. Her last match against Marin was a thriller where she came back from match points down to clinch the 2015 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold title.
Let us hope Saina Nehwal can keep her incredible run going at the All England Open. Team Sports Rediscovered would like to wish the shuttle queen all the best for the final.