India's top badminton player Saina Nehwal on Saturday suffered a narrow loss to Olympic Champion Li Xuerui in the semi-final of the India Open Super Series badminton tournament in New Delhi, reported PTI. The 26-year-old lost 20-22 21-17 19-21 to Xuerui in the Women's Singles competition, drawing curtains on Indian challenge at the Siri Fort Complex.
Though Nehwal matched up to Xuerui in the fast-paced rallies, she was not consistent in finishing them. Xuerui, on the other hand, blew hot and cold as some of her cross-court half-smashes caught Nehwal off-guard. However, the latter also faltered with many strokes.
Nehwal opened up a 8-5 lead early on and managed to stave off the challenge from Xuerui till 11-9. But the latter soon managed to draw parity with two quick points and then turned the tables, reaching 16-13. The former World no.1 in Women's Singles roared back to level with a superb drop from the back court before Xuerui found the net. As she hit wide again, both were tied at 18-18 till Nehwal was leading 19-18 after another miscued smash. Following this, an energy-sapping rally ended with a return, which Nehwal didn't even try. However, she ensured she has the first shot to take advantage as she reached the game point with a smash that Xuerui could only send to the net. Xuerui then produced a deceptive slice and with Nehwal hitting wide and then leaving another shot from her on the right, it was all over.
Even in the second game, Nehwal zoomed to a 7-1 lead with Xuerui committing too many unforced errors, and the former led 11-6 at the interval. Nehwal produced a couple of accurate down the line smashes even as the winner continued to struggle with her strokes, till she, all of a sudden, gathered a flurry of points to narrow the gap to 14-17.
In the decider, Nehwal marched ahead to a 6-2 lead. Xuerui tried to narrow it down to 7-6 but Nehwal had her nose ahead 11-7 at the break after she engaged in a parallel game with Xuerui. After the change of sides, Nehwal continued to dominate the rallies to reach 15-11. But a couple of bad line judgement helped Xuerui to cut down the margin to 13-15. Leading 18-16, Mehwal allowed Xuerui to draw parity when she hit the net twice. A deceptive return was cancelled by a long shot before a line kissing slice gave the advantage to Xuerui , who sealed it when Nehwal failed to negotiate a return.