Saina solves a puzzle

Nehwal’s improved her low shuttle retrieval significantly blunting Yihan’s steep-smash threat.

Written by Shivani Naik | Published: October 24, 2012 1:28:42 am

You’d think China’s World No.1 Yihan Wang’s most bombastic weapon,at 5 feet 10 inches,against Saina Nehwal is her powerful smash from the back-court. It’s fearsome,sure; not fatal.

What has,in fact,troubled the Indian is the Chinese’s 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,Nehwal’s 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. Nehwal’s improved her low shuttle retrieval significantly blunting Yihan’s steep-smash threat.

The Indian’s 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 — Nehwal’s 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 it’s no wonder that Yihan’s 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 Wang’s contrasts extend to being a browbeater yet vulnerable under sustained pressure.

It’s a rivalry both are determined to play out to ferocious levels of cool-headedness. This explains Nehwal’s icy,business-like body language when playing the Chinese in particular.

But it’s still a long way to go before the brick called Yihan comes undone,let alone we claim that Nehwal’s 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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