The home challenge at the 2014 India Open ended on Friday as Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap went down in straight games in their quarterfinal matches. Nehwal lost 21-16 21-14 to Chinese World No.2 Wang Yihan, while Kashyap, who only had World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in front of him, went down 21-15 21-13.
Wang with a 7-1 record againt Nehwal going into their quarterfinal on Friday, was the odds-on favourite. Facing an opponent with a deceptive back court game, quick hands at the net and a powerful smash from anywhere on court, Nehwal’s plan was clear. Her best chance would be to utilise her superior movement against the lanky Wang. The Indian needed to force points into toe-to-toe rallies and try and take control there.
But while Nehwal clearly had done her homework, she was unable to execute it with the perfection that a win against a top opponent demanded.
Nehwal, indeed, began the match promisingly. She took the first point after an exchange that saw her vary the pace on the shuttle before eventually catching Wang stranded on the mid court. However the very next point saw Wang equalise after Nehwal made a return error. A powerful smash gave Nehwal the lead again but an attempt to lift the shuttle from too close to the net made it 2-2.
This pattern would be repeated for much of the match. When Nehwal tried to push a little bit harder to try and get an advantageous opening, that little extra effort she was putting in would result in an error. When she would appear to take control of a rally, she would falter with the finishing.
When Nehwal’s gameplan came through though, Wang looked in trouble. In the middle of the first game, a perfectly placed drop shot caught Wang slow to her lunge and set up the winner.
It was an all-or-nothing approach Nehwal was going with and she needed a bit of luck to pull it off. But it was the Chinese who got lucky on a couple of occasions with net cords that fell in her favour. Nehwal made two challenges over line calls but both went against her.
Additionally the strategy meant that when Nehwal got a few points wrong in a row, the effect snowballed. She now had to take even more risks just to keep pace with Wang while her opponent could play it safe and wait for an error. 14-12 in the first game in the favour of the Chinese soon became 18-12. Appropriately , the Chinese took the first game when
Nehwal with an open court to aim at, sent a smash wide. The fact that Nehwal was forced to play the tightest of net shots and find the tightest of angles continued…