Saina Nehwal was in imposing form at the London Olympic Games until today when she came up against World No. 1 and top seed Yihan Wang of China, who proved to be just too strong for her on the day.
Yihan, who has now won all her matches against Saina, took only 42 minutes to dispose off the ace Indian shuttler's challenge 21-13, 21-13 at the Wembley Arena in London. Yihan didn't allow Saina to settle in at all as she used her all-round play and pace to dictate the match almost from start to finish. The defeat was Saina's sixth straight loss to Wang, who remains the only Chinese the Hyderabadi has never beaten.
Saina was in imposing form yesterday when she defeated Tine Baun of Denmark 21-15, 22-20 to become the first Indian shuttler to enter the Olympics semi-finals. However, today, Saina was at the receiving end of a masterclass at the hands of Yihan.
Saina took time to get her feet moving while the Chinese covered the court like a gazelle.
From 4-4 in the first game, Wang raced to an 11-6 lead by the first break with some power-packed smashes. She won most of the long rallies through her flawless court coverage and commendable retrieving. Her soft smashes left the Indian despairingly lunging to reach.
Saina managed a minor recovery from 9-18 to take the next four points, but that was not enough to trouble the champion. Wang went a game up with a forehand smash which Saina got late on.
Saina went on the offensive from the start of the second game, moving much faster on the court. She used the high toss to advantage, though she also went over the baseline a couple of times. The approach helped her recover from a 3-6 deficit to take a slender lead at 11-10.
With the scoreline reading 13-13, Wang went on the overdrive, reeling off the next eight points to close out the match.
Saina's opponent for bronze Wang Xin, who has a 4-2 head-to-head record against the Indian, lost to compatriot Li Xuerui 20-22, 18-21 in the other semifinal.
(With agency inputs)