OLYMPICS Day 4 – Saina’s Ukraine migraine

How did the women’s singles world #61 prevent London Olympic bronze medallist and world #5 Saina Nehwal from advancing out of Group G? By Aaron Wong.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for […]

How did the women’s singles world #61 prevent London Olympic bronze medallist and world #5 Saina Nehwal from advancing out of Group G?

By Aaron Wong.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto

Ukraine’s Marija Ulitina convincingly beat in straight games the player with the most recent victory, India’s Saina Nehwal (pictured right).  Ulitina took it 21-18, 21-19.

It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise as Nehwal, a genuine chance to medal again and better, had admitted this year that playing somebody for the first time is her weakness.

The top Indian player’s signature urgency with which she addresses shuttles was becoming an achilles heel against the gangly athlete with a rare western style that requires less than full body preparation and mostly arm action to direct her shots.  Think along the lines of Thomas Stuer-Lauridsen, Kevin Cordon, Tine Rasmussen, and London Games women’s doubles bronze medallist Nina Vislova.

Nehwal, a smart player, recognised the pattern and did dial down her typical flair, thereby prolonging the match until she could find rhythm or a viable solution, but never did.

Ulitina’s rarely witnessed style of play drew repeated short lifts and controlled her opponent like a puppet on a string.   The rallies at 7-7 and when she was 16-17 down in the second game illustrates how badly Nehwal was off time on her shots.

Next, the Indian hung in there to level proceedings but the European’s dreaded forehand cross-court smash, which had repeatedly struck beyond reach, surfaced once more. Alerted to this danger, Nehwal closed off such opportunities only for Ulitina’s round-the-head cross-court smash to deal the next blow from the opposite corner.  The service error at 19-19 by the unheralded Ukrainian was the only nervous blip in an otherwise solid performance and couldn’t prevent the biggest upset in the women’s singles draw from happening.

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Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @ badzine.net