The country is not short on festivals,but Ugadi,the New Years day celebrated with much fervour in Hyderabad,didnt go down too well with Saina Nehwal. The Indian wasnt at her best as far as strokes go,and overdid the attack while going for the kill in her India Open quarter-final. And the second seed let the first-game comeback where she sailed to 21-12 after being 1-4 down lull her into believing that bigger leads could be overcome with similar bull-dozing.
The Indian world No 9 lost the plot in the next two games,crumbling 12-21 21-13 21-18 to Julia Pei Xian Wong,an opponent ranked at a tricky 15,and one who has gained good ground on Nehwal since the first time the Malaysian was pipped to the Philippines Open crown in 2006.
Staking claims to joining the worlds top-most elite (she has confessed it to be Mission Top-5 by the year-end),Nehwal will need to snap out of her all-out attacking ploy for every SOS situation on the court.
Having started slowly in the opening game,the 19-year-old cranked up the aggression and managed to temporarily hold off the Malaysian,mixing her smashes with wily drops and net dribbles. What followed though,was an example of how the script can be upturned by a smart rival.
Wong had lost the first two ties she played against Nehwal,but having beaten the Indian in their last meeting at the Asian Badminton Championship,she held a little mental edge. Besides,she managed to keep her head and block out the great din caused by the partisan crowds at the Gachibowli Stadium.
Nehwal trailed 2-9 again in the second,before narrowing the margin to 10-13. But her error count at the net had started to go up. So Wong opened up her game,getting her rival to scurry around and,in turn,draining her of the power to smash. Nehwal lost the game 21-13.
Having levelled to 6-6 after having trailed 1-4 in the decider,Nehwal couldve opted to play the safe shots. But as she went about misjudging her choice of strokes,Wong got increasingly assured in her cross-court smashes. Nehwal was soon staring at 18-20,match-point for the Malaysian.
I took it a little easy in the second,and then longer rallies added up the lead,so I was playing catch-up, she said later.
Jwala Gutta combined with V Diju to enter the mixed doubles semi-finals and then teamed up with Shruti Kurien to reach the last-four stage of womens doubles. Jwala and Diju beat the Chinese pair of Tao Jiaming and Xiaoli Wang 21-13 21-13. Kurien and Gutta defeated the Malaysian-Singaporean duo Chiou Hwee Haw and Yujia Li 21-19 21-16.
Hoping for upgrade
The world body (BWF) officials are returning from Hyderabad with a favourable report,though leaving behind some suggestions for tighter security ahead of the World Championships in August. BAI president VK Verma hoped that the India Open would be upgraded to the Super Series level in the coming years. Meanwhile,Lucknows Syed Modi International will now be a Grand Prix event from 2009 and India will host the CWG and the Asian Badminton Championships in 2010.
An Australia-based security-review group,employed by the BWF to assess security,had checked the Hyderabad venue a month ago and cleared it. Were confident of tying up all loose ends as far as security goes, Verma assured.