Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Saina again loses to Tai, ousted from Malaysia Open


Shah Alam (Malaysia), April 9 (IANS) Leading Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal lost her sixth consecutive match against Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying to be knocked out of the Malaysia Open Superseries Premier semi-finals here on Saturday.

Tai, 21, defeated 26-year-old Saina 21-19, 21-13 in 34 minutes to set up a final date against Thai fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon at the Malawati Stadium.

This was 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Saina’s ninth loss in 13 meetings against her younger nemesis. The Hyderabadi had defeated Tai last time in March 2013.

Up against an wily opponent, a good start would have helped Saina. But it didn’t turn out to be the way the 2015 World Championship silver medallist had expected.

Saina trailed 0-7 and that difference remained throughout the first game. Even though she fought back, Tai rode on that sparkling start to get to a 20-14 lead when the Indian showed her experience in gaining five consecutive points.

Nevertheless, only one point in favour of Tai would have given her the 1-0 lead and it did following a drop shot.

In the second game, Saina matched shot by shot against Tai but the Chinese Taipei’s shuttler held a 14-10 advantage that proved crucial as she pocketed the game 21-13 and with it, a place in the final.

With Saina’s defeat, India’s campaign in the tournament ended. This was world No.8 Indian’s third successive loss in the final four stages after the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and India Superseries.

In the other semi-final, former world champion Ratchanok knocked out Chinese sixth seed and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Yihan Wang 21-11, 21-19 to continue her fine run.

In the final, world No.9 Tai will aim to repeat her 2013 heroics, while 21-year-old Ratchanok will aim to bag her first Malaysian Open title.

Tai, even though trails 5-7 against current Asian champion Ratchanok in head-to-head record, she will put up a great fight and it will be a great contest against two of the very best exponents of drop shots.

Meanwhile, in the men’s singles final, home hero Lee Chong Wei will face Chinese superstar and two-time reigning world champion Chen Long.

Chong Wei, bidding to claim his 11th Malaysian title, brushed past Danish fifth seed Jan O Jorgensen in the first semi-final 21-7, 21-14 in 35 minutes.

Defending champion Long was stretched to three game by Indonesian Jonatan Christie. But the world No.1 Chinese prevailed 8-21, 21-19, 21-14 in 55 minutes.

Chong Wei and Long share a great rivalry between them with the former has won 11 of the 23 meetings and as the Olympic Games near, it will be another badminton feast that the fans can’t wait.

The 27-year-old Long claimed the title last year without the absence of Chong Wei, who has ruled the scene for the previous seven consecutive years.

And come Sunday, in front of his home fans, two-time Olympic silver medallist Chong Wei will like to prove that despite being 33 now, he remains the country’s biggest prospect to bring the elusive gold medal at the quadrennial event.

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