India’s Saina Nehwal failed to reach the last-four stage of the Denmark Superseries Premier after losing 21-10, 21-13 to defending champion Akane Yamaguchi in their quarter-final clash on Friday.
Nehwal’s previous two wins in the tournament, that included a fine win over Olympic champion Carolina Marin, had promised a tight clash. With coach Pullela Gopichand in her corner, Nehwal was expected to put up a stiff challenge to the Japanese world No 5. Unfortunately for the Indian, Yamaguchi was in no mood to surrender her title defence on the day.
Yamaguchi produced a clinical performance that blew Nehwal away in just 29 minutes.
The Japanese star raced to an 8-3 lead in the first game to underpin her dominance over Nehwal, who’s early woes were compounded by two service faults.
Yamaguchi, though, did not let her lead slip despite Nehwal’s continued search for a comeback. She kept the Indian on the back-foot through to the mid-game interval at 11-6.
Nehwal resumed the game with a few positive plays after the break. However, Yamaguchi kept extending her already formidable lead as Nehwal’s failed to contain the errors. She wrapped up the game 21-10 in just 12 minutes as an out of sorts Nehwal headed towards her coach for an animated discussion between the games.
The conversation with her coach seemed to have ignited a positive game from Nehwal as she put up a better fight in the second game. She matched Yamaguchi shot for shot in the early stages. The rallies grew longer and the exchange of points was far more. Both players showed guile and precision as the margin of error reduced considerably.
The two were locked at 7-7 after a phase of play that proved more absorbing than the entire first game. At 9-8 she took the lead for the first time in the match. Yamaguchi, though, did not let it last long, with a terrific drop shot that had Nehwal on the wrong foot. The Japanese world No 5 went into the break with a slight one-point advantage, just about managing to keep a resurgent Nehwal at bay.
Yamaguchi, though, came back strongly. After the break, she looked more assured and produced attacking plays that helped her extend her lead despite Nehwal’s desperate attempts to effect a comeback.
Yamaguchi raced away from there on. as Nehwal lost steam. The Japanese strolled to victory as she clinched the game 21-13.