India’s campaign in the women’s singles came to an end at the USD 500,000 Malaysia Super Series Premier badminton event after both Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu lost their respective second round matches in contrasting styles.
While Olympic bronze medallist Saina fought hard before going down 21-16 10-21 19-21 to a lower-ranked Yao Xue of China in a 56-minute contest, Sindhu lost to sixth seed Yeon Ju Bae of Korea 16-21 19-21 in 45 minutes at the Putra Stadium.
World No. 8 Saina, who had endured a tough season last year as she could not win a single title, failed to turn around her fortunes in her season opener.
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Saina lived up to her billing in the first game as she faced little trouble in overcoming World No. 25 Xue.
Despite it being a close affair till 12-12, Saina kept her calm to seal the opening game 21-16.
But the Indian was in for a rude shock in the second game as the Chinese girl maintained an upper-hand throughout.
Saina, surprisingly, could not catch her opponent even once during game two.
After taking the initial lead, Xue simply kept on moving ahead and opened up a massive gap. She eventually sealed the second game without breaking a sweat.
In the decider, Saina got her act together and took a 7-4 lead before moving to 10-8.
But Xue came back strongly to level the scores at 10-10 before slowly opening up a gap at 18-14.
Saina, however, showed a lot of character as she fought back to pocket three successive points and reduce the margin to 17-18 before catching up with her rival at 19-19.
But the Chinese raised her game when it mattered the most and bagged two quick points to stun her fancied Indian opponent.
Meanwhile, World Championship bronze-medallist Sindhu got off to a fine start as she opened up a slight 2-0 lead and then extended it to 6-3 in the first game.
But once the World No. 7 Korean settled down, she made it 6-6 before surging ahead to open up a gap of 10-6 by winning seven points on the trot.
Not the one to give up so easily, Sindhu fought her way to reduce the margin to 9-10.
But the higher ranked Korean kept on moving ahead and the closest that Sindhu could get to her once again was at 13-14.
Thereafter, it was a smooth sail for Bae, who comfortably wrapped up the first game in her favour.
The second game, however, was an interesting battle that saw the Korean post a come-from-behind victory.
It was a neck-and-neck till 6-6 before Sindhu won three consecutive points to take a 9-6 lead.
Determined not to let the advantage slip, the 18-year-old girl from Hyderabad kept on maintaining a slight edge till 16-15 before she bagged three more points on the trot to take a crucial 19-15 lead.
But just when the World No. 11 Indian looked all set to seal the second game and take the match to the decider, Bae used all her experience to earn four straight points to make it 19-19.
Sindhu failed to regain her composure even as the Korean won the next two points to end the Indian’s campaign in the tournament.