Youd think Chinas World No.1 Yihan Wangs most bombastic weapon,at 5 feet 10 inches,against Saina Nehwal is her powerful smash from the back-court. Its fearsome,sure; not fatal.
What has,in fact,troubled the Indian is the Chineses fore-court game both drops from mid-court into which Yihan pours all her wristy deception,as well as drives and pushes against Nehwal.
When prevailing in the abbreviated win over Yihan at Denmark over the weekend,Nehwals biggest success was denying Yihan any free-hand near the net from where the tall girl bullies and towers over shorter opponents,and rubs it in with shrieking screeches. Nehwals improved her low shuttle retrieval significantly blunting Yihans steep-smash threat.
The Indians best strategy then was to push her back so Yihan was lifting most shuttles giving the Indian time to compose her retorts. Unlike in London Nehwals 6th defeat to Yihan,and perhaps the tamest the Indian had made her rival scurry to diagonal corners ; always ready to do all the running herself too and its no wonder that Yihans cagey knee caved in with all that awkward lateral loping giving Nehwal a toe-hold after six losses in six years.
More importantly,unlike the Olympics,Nehwal grabbed control of the match,which discomforts Yihan the most. Powerful yet quick in reflexes,Yihan Wangs contrasts extend to being a browbeater yet vulnerable under sustained pressure.
Its a rivalry both are determined to play out to ferocious levels of cool-headedness. This explains Nehwals icy,business-like body language when playing the Chinese in particular.
But its still a long way to go before the brick called Yihan comes undone,let alone we claim that Nehwals brought down the Chinese wall. But the Denmark semifinal was a peek into what a confident Nehwal could do against the Chinese World No. 1 next time both face off.
Shivani is a Special Correspondent based in Mumbai
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