August 14, 2015 10:15:27 pm
A World Championship medal for Saina Nehwal would have been incomplete without beating a Chinese on the way.
It would’ve been incomplete without the Chinese being Yihan Wang. No other shuttler has made Saina Nehwal feel like an incomplete player, as much as Yihan, the tall, gutsy, driven Chinese with a whirring hand-speed has.
At the London Olympics, at her last loss at the Indonesian Open finals in 2011, at the Asian Games last year – at nine venues across the globe, Yihan, had left the Indian scarred and licking her wounds sustained from blistering winners.
So it was poetic as much as it was emotional when Saina Nehwal (India) beat Yihan Wang (China) 21-15, 19-21, 21-19 to secure for herself her first and long-awaited World Championship medal.
A bronze is assured, a better hue is anticipated on the eve of Independence Day, when Saina Nehwal played perhaps the biggest match of her career to break her World Championship quarterfinal jinx after five failures at the same stage earlier.
Saina has been felled by chicken pox in 2009, she’s gone into the mega meet with injuries and she has repeatedly lost to the Chinese with the elusive medal acquiring demonic proportions of chasing shadows.
Saina had started chipping away at Yihan’s confidence with a win at the All England earlier this year, a victory that was nuanced in tactics and displayed her entire range of strokes. But at Jakarta in Indonesia, a country that Saina loves and finds affection in return having won three titles there, Saina played an outstanding game of badminton, relentless in her attack with strokes that were crisp as a starched shirt.
Never backing off in long rallies, making the most poised decisions in the middle of the blitzing pace – save briefly in the second set when Yihan scurried away with 8 points straight – and giving credence to her famed mental strength, Saina grabbed her World medal.
To be sure, there was everything else associated with a Saina Nehwal win on an evening where she was India’s last woman standing in the Worlds: body smashes, power in strokes, exemplary stamina, and the refusal to blink. And of course, the Chinese blown away by the girl who stayed calm throughout the match, before she let out the roar.
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