Saina Nehwal looked slightly jaded and had a raucous Indonesian crowd to deal with but that did not deter her from securing a place in the final of the prestigious World Championships in Jakarta on Saturday. The Indian, who came though a marathon quarter-final against Wang Yihan on Friday, registered a 21-17, 21-17 win over Indonesian World No. 29 Lindaweni Fanetri in 55 minutes.
This is the first time that Saina has progressed to the final of the Worlds. This will also be the first time that India will get a medal of a different hue other than a bronze. Currently, Indian badminton has four bronze from this elite meet – Prakash Padukone in 1983, Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa in 2011 and PV Sindhu in 2013 and 2014.
A wonderful gift from Saina Nehwal on Indian Independence Day
Saina Nehwal rewrote history books as the first Indian to enter a World Championships final, much to the delight of her fans back home on Indian Independence Day. Her will to win once again was what pulled her through even though Nehwal was a bit erratic in the semi-final.
Lindaweni Fanetri, the home favourite was the underdog on paper and also carried a knee injury. But she was buoyed by the vociferous crowd at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium who inspired her to pull back the deficit every time Saina surged to a lead.
Long rallies marked the majority of the first game. Even when Saina was up at 14-11, Fanetri refused to go down easily and levelled at 15-15. At 17-17, Saina displayed her superior net skills and took the next four points to wrap up the opening game 21-17.
The second game mirrored the first one where once again the second-seeded Indian failed to protect her lead. Fanetri came charging back and closed in to make it 10-11.
A refreshed Saina came out after the break to go on a three-point burst and make it 14-11. After the Indonesian once again came within sniffing distance, Saina soared to 17-14 with the aid of powerful smashes. An aggressive Fanetri next pulled out some exceptional down-the-line smashes to make it 16-17.
A determined Saina Nehwal then won three of the next four points to hold three match points at 20-17. A long rally ensued which ended in a Fanetri error, thus giving victory to the World No. 2.
Next up: Carolina Marin
Saina Nehwal will get a chance for revenge against the World No. 1 and defending champion Carolina Marin. The Spaniard beat Saina in three games in the final of the All England Championships this year. Marin edged past Korean Sung Ji Hyun 21-17, 15-21, 21-16 in the other semi-final in Jakarta on Saturday.
Here’s hoping Saina’s fighting spirit will shine forth and propel her to a maiden World Championships title on Sunday.