NEW DELHI, April 2: Defending champion Saina Nehwal played out her skin before going down narrowly to Olympic Champion Li Xuerui in the hard-fought women�s singles semifinal of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open Super Series badminton tournament, here today.
The 26-year-old Indian, who is making a comeback after going through a long recovery from ankle injury, lost 20-22, 21-17, 19- 21 to China�s Li in an edge-of-the-seat thriller in the women�s singles competition to draw curtains on Indian challenge at the Siri Fort Complex here. It was her 11th lose to the Chinese in 13 meetings.
In a nail-biting contest, Saina matched up to Li in the fast-paced rallies but was not consistent in finishing the rallies.
Li on the other hand, blew hot and cold as some of her cross court half smashes caught Saina off guard but she also faltered with many strokes. In the end it was a couple of accurate strokes which sealed the match for the Chinese in the decider.
Leading 19-18 in the decider, Saina�s return went long to help Li make it 19-19 and then the Chinese came with a line-kissing slice to grab one match point, which she sealed when Saina failed to negotiate a serve.
Soon after the loss a disappointed Saina said: �I had big leads but she came back, she was picking up everything. She was maintaining good rallies and was hitting some good shots to the line.
�I can remember the last two points which were crucial in the last game. My service went to the net and one lift which went behind and I made a line error. Those two were not required. She played those points with a lot of confidence.
�I should have won the first game at 20-19. Obviously such matches gives you a lot of confidence but also it can be irritating to miss out. I am good but I know I can be much better. I was not happy yesterday. I took three games yesterday. Today I could have won the first game,� said Saina, who will head to Malaysia Open next. Two-time silver medallist at World Championship, Li said there was not much difference between both of them.
�There is not much difference. I think it is just a few key points which made the difference. Today Saina was playing at home and that puts her under pressure but she also has the support of home crowd. I�m glad to get better off her today,� she said.
�It was a tough game. Saina played very well. I was making lot of mistakes and once I was able to overcome my mistakes, I was back in the match,� the Chinese added. � PTI