Saina Nehwals dream of winning her maiden All England Championship went up in smoke as the Indian suffered a straight-game defeat to world number eight Intanon Ratchanok of Thailand in the semifinals of the womens singles competition on Saturday.
The world number three Indian went down 15-21 19-21 to the young and dynamic Intanon in a 40-minute match at the National Indoor Arena. This is the third time Saina has lost to Intanon. She was beaten at the Sudirman Cup in 2011 and also at the Super Series Final last year.
The 18-year-old Intanon mixed strokes and used her drops and tosses to fluommox Saina. The Thai girl controlled the rallies with her varying pace to make it difficult for Saina to come back in the match as she pocketed the first game 21-15.
In the second game,Saina had opened up a narrow 5-3 lead but the Thai used her accurate placing and varied strokes to reel off five straight points and move ahead 8-5. Inthanon kept the momentum to lead 18-14 but she hit a couple of points wide to allow Saina to narrow the gap. An error of judgement gave Intanon two match points.
Saina saved one with a smash but she faltered at the net on the next to give the Thai a place in the final.
Intanons court coverage was exceptional,something she used really well to go up 6-4 in the first game. The more experienced Saina however levelled the scores at 6-6 and the match went on even keel.
What hurt Saina more was her error in judgement as she let go a lot of shots anticipating that they will be going out.
The 18-year-old Thai girl was certainly a far more superior player on the day. There were quick smashes and deceptive drop shots at the net which the Olympic bronze medallist didnt have any answer to. Intanon however raced away from 13-13 as she won a number of points with some delightful precision smashes down the line.
She completely outmaneuvered Saina with her net-play and also produced forceful smashes in between.
Sainas efforts to engage her into long rallies was not paying any dividends as the Thai girl looked equally good in retrieval as well as in attack. A frustrated Saina then made an unforced error as her forehand smash hit the net.
Down 7-10 in the second game,a deft drop shot helped her pull back a point when Intanons backhand shot hit the net. Just as it looked that Saina can make a comeback at 9-10,Intanons down the line forehand smash made it 11-9. The comeback was beyond question as Inathanon raced to a five point lead at 14-9.
Saina closed the gap at 17-18 but the cushion remained with Intanon. The Indian saved a match point at 18-20 but at 20-19,a drop shot from Saina hit the net much to the delight of the Thailand girl.