Saina a step away from pinnacle

Saina a step away from pinnacle

Badminton World Championships : Indian champion to take on Spain's Marin for the big prize in final today

Saina a step away from pinnacle

The year seems to be getting better and better for Saina Nehwal. The World No 2 woman shuttler, gifted with fierce determination and a renewed flair, conjured yet another milestone in her illustrious career when she became the first Indian to reach the final of the Badminton World Championships in Jakarta.

A composed 21-17, 2-17 victory over local favourite Lindaweni Fanetri took her to her maiden Worlds final where she would meet World No 1 and defending champion Carolina Marin. Marin fought off a stiff competition from Korea's Sung Ji-hyun to claim an emphatic 21-17, 15-21, 21-16 victory.

For Saina who had never made beyond the quarterfinals in last five attempts at the World Championships, it was yet another reaffirmation of personal growth since she had joined hands with former Indian shuttler and coach Vimal Kumar. Their year-long partnership has had a rippling effect with Saina reaching her maiden All England final, becoming first Indian to achieve World No 1 ranking and winning her maiden India Open Super Series.

“It is a very significant achievement and a big boost for Indian badminton. I am happy the way she has handled the pressure situations and maintained her composure, especially in the last two matches,” Vimal told Deccan Herald.

“Women’s badminton matches this time have been much better in terms of quality and variety compared to men, the level has been very high. I have told her not to think about All England final and to relax. I hope Saina gets better of Carolina.”

After defeating her long time nemesis Wang Yihan, in a gruelling, energy sapping semifinal that had all the ingredients of a classic, Saina was up against Fanetri and a passionate home crowd on Saturday.  She, however, kept her focus to post a dominating win.

“I never thought I'd reach the final. I just want to do well tomorrow,” said Saina. “It was one of my toughest matches this week, I was playing against the crowd. Whatever points she got was due to my mistake.”

Saina and Marin have developed an interesting rivalry. This is the third final in the year where the two would be facing off. Saina had beaten the 22-year-old Spaniard to win her first title of the season, the Syed Modi Grand Prix in January, but lost to her in the All England final. Ahead of Indian Grand Prix, both were in the race to become World No 1.
“It will be tricky; she (Marin) has some fast-paced strokes,” Saina reckoned. “It will be a different match compared to the All England final since the conditions are different.”

Saina, though, would like to take confidence from her past performances in Indonesia, her favourite hunting ground. It was here she won her first Super Series title in 2009 and held the crown again in 2010 and 2012. It is the only Super Series title she has won three times. The crowd here adores her and cheered for her. No other venue would be more befitting for Saina if she were to become the World Champion on Sunday.

Lee sails through

In the men’s draw, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia cruised into his fourth straight final, but must overcome Chinese top seed Chen Long to win his elusive gold.

Lee, a three-time runner up at badminton's most prestigious event, advanced to yet another title match after swatting aside second seed Jan O. Jorgensen of Denmark 21-7, 21-19.

Meanwhile, Chen smashed Kento Momota of Japan 21-9, 21-15 to advance to his second straight final, but acknowledged defending his world title this year would be no easy task.

Saina vs Marin

In head to head meetings, Saina holds a 3-1 advantage.
Previous meetings:
March, 2015: All England Open (Final): Saina lost to Marin 21-16, 14-21, 7-21.
January, 2015: Syed Modi Badminton Championship (Final): Saina bt Carolina Marin 19-21, 25-23, 21-16.
June, 2014: Australian Open (Final): Saina bt Marin 21-18, 21-11.
June 2013: Indonesia Open 2013 (Quarterfinals): Saina bt Marin 21-16, 21-19.   

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