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Saina Nehwal suffers heartbreak, misses semis clash vs PV Sindhu in Hong Kong

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 25-11-2016
© AP Photo

It was a day of contrasting fortunes for Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu. Both were on a collision course for a mouth-watering clash in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open. Alas, it was not meant to be.

After PV Sindhu faced her toughest fight of the year, Saina Nehwal faced a similar situation but she could not overcome local favourite Cheung Ngan Yi. The Indian ace lost 8-21, 21-18, 19-21 to bow out in the quarter-finals. With Saina’s loss, Sindhu has toppled her in the world rankings. Sindhu has moved to number nine in the rankings while Saina has slipped to 11th.

Saina started badly as she failed to garner momentum in the first game. Cheung made her pay and she lost the first game 8-21. In the second game, Saina regained her composure and kept pace with the Hong Kong shuttler. After initially trailing by a couple of points, she turned the tables and clinched the second game 21-18.

In the third game, Saina committed errors as she fell behind. Trailing 11-18, it looked all over but Saina did not give up. She made up the deficit and levelled the match at 18-18. However, in a rally that lasted for over two minutes, Cheung seized the opportunity and closed out the match to win the game 21-19 and enter the semi-final, where she will face Sindhu.

PV Sindhu back from the brink

© AP Photo

Earlier in the day, Sindhu faced her toughest match of the year as she overturned a six-point deficit in the third and final game to enter the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open superseries by defeating Liang Xiayou of Singapore 21-17, 21-23, 21-18.

The Indian shuttler got off to a poor start against Xiayou as she strailed 7-4 at the beginning of the first game. The Singapore shuttler played some attacking badminton and put pressure on Sindhu.

However, Sindhu rallied to win four consecutive points as the Singapore shuttler squandered the chance. She capitalised on the momentum to take the lead. Sindhu had a four-point advantage heading towards the close but Xiayou closed the gap. Sindhu, ranked world number nine, maintained her nerve and closed out the first game 21-17.

Sindhu once again got off to a poor start as she trailed Xiayou 6-3 in the second game. However, like the first game, the Singapore shuttler let the advantage slip and Sindhu levelled the game 6-6.

Both players played with aggression and at 10-10, the game was interestingly poised. A couple of unforced errors from Xiayou gave Sindhu a two-point advantage and she did not let go. Xiayou tried to make up but Sindhu raced away to a four-point lead as the match neared the end.

However, trailing 13-17, Xiayou played some inspirational games as she drew level with Sindhu at 19-19. With the game nearing its end, both players tried hard to gain the advantage. In an epic two-minute rally, Xiayou came out on top and Sindhu was forced to play catch-up. At 21-21, an error from Sindhu cost her the game and she lost the game 21-23.

Sindhu came out all guns blazing in the third game as she raced away to a 4-1 lead. However, the see-saw nature of the match continued as Xiayou clawed back and took a 5-4 lead. Things became worse for Sindhu as Xiayou raced away to a six-point lead and at 9-15, things looked grim.

But, the Indian shuttler refused to give up and in a spectacular comeback, won five consecutive points to close the gap to 14-15. This time, it was the turn of the Singapore player to feel the pressure and she once again let go off the lead. Every point was fought hard and at 18-18, it was anybody’s game but Sindhu held her nerve brilliantly to take the lead and close out the game to win the game 21-18 and the match.

The encounter lasted for 78 minutes and Sindhu improved her head to head encounter against Xiayou to 3-0.

Sindhu continues to have a fabulous time in 2016. She clinched her maiden superseries title when she won the China Open last week. Earlier in the year, she created history when she became the first Indian shuttler to clinch the silver medal in the Rio Olympics.

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