Saina goes down fighting in Malaysian OpenJanuary 9th, 2009 - 7:52 pm ICT by IANS
Kuala Lumpur, Jan 9 (IANS) India’s Saina Nehwal saved four match points but crashed out in the quarterfinals against fourth seed PI Hongyan of France in the Malaysian Open Super Series badminton here Friday.Saina, seeded fifth, gave a tough fight to World No. 7 Hongyan but went down 17-21, 26-24, 16-21 in almost an hour-long struggle for the semi-final berth.
The World No. 10 Indian has been in prime form recently and showed the stomach to take on the world’s best at the big stage.
Having lost the first game, Saina came strongly in the second, with a flurry of smashes and deft net-play. She saved three match points to take the match to the decider but then ran out of steam midway through the third game.
The Chinese-born Hongyan was up 4-0 in the first game before Saina levelled 4-4. Hongyan stepped up the accelerator and went ahead 15-9 forcing Saina to surrender at 17-21.
But it was in the second game where Saina’s resilience that has tamed top players in last six months came to the fore. She matched Hongyan stroke for stroke and despite lagging behind for most part, the 18-year-old was not prepared to throw in the towel.
Saina caught up with Hongyan at 5-5 and from then on both players were engaged in a fierce battle. They were locked 16-16 before Hongyan took three points in a row to push for victory. But Saina had other plans.
The Indian levelled at 19-19 but could not stop Hongyan from getting the crucial match point. Saina thwarted her march and went on to save two more match points until she got one at 25-24, which she squandered. Saina though converted the second match point to stay alive.
The third game too ebbed and flowed in both directions. Saina was down 5-9 but came back to hold Hongyan at 9-9 before nosing ahead with another point. But that was where Saina could not shift the gear as Hongyan dug in her reserves to move ahead at 15-11 and then 19-14. Saina saved another match point but the 16-20 gulf proved too wide for herto bridge.