It was a challenge that proved too tough for India’s Saina Nehwal in the end. Carolina Marin sprung to life after a slow start and played a brilliant match to retain her World Championships title 21-16, 21-19, thereby crushing all hopes of Saina in a 59-minute final of high quality.
But the World No. 2 can be proud of her efforts at the prestigious World meet in Jakarta. For five times, the quarter-finals had been an insurmountable barrier for her. This time, she played an enthralling quarter-final match to beat her nemesis Wang Yihan to get to the elusive semi-finals. Next, she crossed another hurdle in Lindaweni Fanetri to assure India of at least a silver medal from the Championships – the first silver in Indian badminton history.
Fifth WC medal for India
Saina’s silver medal thus becomes India’s fifth medal from the gala event after Prakash Padukone in 1983, Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa in 2011 and PV Sindhu in 2013, 2014.
First World Championships silver medal for Saina Nehwal
The history-making Saina Nehwal started very well with hopes of erasing the painful memories of her three-game defeat to the now top-ranked Carolina Marin at the All England final in March. Covering every inch of the court, the two heavyweights battled it out at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Sunday.
Marin, like in most of her other matches, started with a few errors and was slowly building on her momentum. By that time, Saina had raced to 4-2, showing superb anticipation and retrieving skills.
The defending champion’s aggression came to life after she was trailing at 5-7. With a thunderous down-the-line smash, Marin made it 6-7 and then just became unstoppable. The Jakarta Stadium was soon reverberating with loud celebratory screams from the World No. 1 and the ‘Ole, Ole’ chants from the Spanish armada. The champion was well ahead at 11-7 after a sudden six-point burst.
Nehwal re-focused and tried to patiently build points after the lemon break. But the fiery pace from Carolina Marin and her unflinching desire to win were breathtaking to watch. Marin soon had the scoreboard ticking to 18-13 in her favour. Saina closed in to make it 16-20 but, Marin displayed exquisite touch and finesse at the net to take the first game 21-16.
Saina Nehwal started the second game on a much more positive note as Marin was still searching for accuracy on her shots. Nehwal surged to 5-3 and then 8-5. The Indian played smartly and engaged the Spaniard into long rallies to force an error out of her. It paid off as Saina had the scoreboard showing 11-6 in her favour at the mid-game interval.
But the All England winner, as always, refused to give up without a fight. With her attacking forehand coming alive soon after, things gradually started becoming difficult for the second seed. As the shrieking Marin’s down-the-line and body smashes took the centre stage, Nehwal looked rattled and had no answers.
Some brutal defense was on exhibition from both the players and Carolina Marin looked simply undeterred. Switching effortlessly between bold aggression and relentless defense, she took the lead for the first time at 13-12.
The two were locked in a battle of attrition as the scores were tied at 17-17 and then at 18-18. The top seed’s exceptional lefty forehand once again shone forth to give her two match points at 20-18. Saina saved one in a marathon rally but conceded the next point and the title to the incredible 22-year-old Carolina Marin.
Chen Long retains title
In the men’s singles final, World No. 1 Chen Long too successfully defended his crown after beating former top-ranked player Lee Chong Wei 21-14, 21-17 in 1 hour 5 minutes.