OLYMPICS Day 6 – Saina stands alone

On a day where all four quarter-final women’s singles matches went with the seedings, the young Thai player Ratchanok Intanon offered a ray of hope for an upset, with a […]

On a day where all four quarter-final women’s singles matches went with the seedings, the young Thai player Ratchanok Intanon offered a ray of hope for an upset, with a bright performance the likes of which we are sure to see more of.  Saina Nehwal beat Tine Baun to assume the role of sole challenger to Chinese authority.

By Michael Burke, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Saina Nehwal (pictured) became the only non-Chinese representative in the semi-finals, as she beat Denmark’s Tine Baun 21-15, 22-20 to progress.  The Indian managed to end up with a draw that has her facing the only player in the tournament whom she has never beaten.

That match was the only one not involving a Chinese player, and saw controversy over line calls as both players judged length badly in the drift.  Baun struggled to find her range early on, Nehwal capitalising on simple mistakes by the Dane to take the first game.  Baun improved in the second, and kept the lead changing regularly, but it was Nehwal who saved three game points and took match point at her first effort to win 21-15, 22-20.

Earlier, Saina’s successor as both World Junior Champion and as youngest Olympian, Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) of Thailand had pushed world number two Wang Xin to the limit.  The first time these two played, in the women’s team event of the 2010 Asian Games, the youngster had been able to sneak up on Wang Xin.  Even if she already had a Grand Prix Gold and 2 World Junior titles under her belt, she was still a 15-year-old facing the world #1.

But even if Wang Xin was ready for her this time, the Thai still started brightly to dominate the latter stages of her first game, drawing uncharacteristic errors from Wang, and she took the game at the first opportunity 21-17.

The second game saw her start with a new-found confidence, out-manoeuvring her opponent in the early exchanges.  Wang changed to a more defensive tactic, waiting for errors from Intanon’s lack of control in her positive play.  Despite this, Intanon continued with her great placement to the back court to open up a gaping 16-9 lead.

However, Wang, the 26-year-old Olympic rookie, was still the one with her nerves under control and she mounted a remarkable comeback that saw her snatch the game 21-18 and level the match.

The disappointment of the previous game seemed to cause Intanon to tire, as she looked a step slower in the third game.  After a timeout for the Thai for an apparent injury to the foot when the score was at 12-7 to the Chinese, Wang was unfazed, and she pushed through to clinch the victory.

In the adjacent court, Chinese world #1 Wang Yihan took on Cheng Shao Chieh of Chinese Taipei, it was a predictable result as Wang allowed Cheng exactly the same number of total points as in their World Championship final last summer.

Number 3 seed Li Xuerui (pictured), maybe not have needed a third game, but she was certainly pushed harder than her top-seeded compatriot.  Li raced to an early lead against unseeded dark horse Yip Pui Yin from Hong Kong, consolidating this to take the first game 21-12.  However, the second game stayed more level before Yip surged ahead.

Li looked in danger of being taken to a third game but she rose to the challenge to save a string of game points from 16-20 down.  Unable to close it out, Yip could merely watch as Li calmly came through 22-20.

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About Michael Burke