Saina goes down to Yihan in Asia Championships semis

Wuhan (China), April 30 (IANS) Indian star Saina Nehwal crashed out against her fierce Chinese rival Yihan Wang in the semi-final of the Badminton Asia Championships here on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Indian failed to match the sharp play from Yihan as she went down 16-21, 14-21 in 41 minutes at the Wuhan Sports Center.

This loss was the 2015 World Championship runner-up’s 11th in 15 meetings against the 2011 world champion and 2012 silver medallist.

Even though the world No.8 Indian started on a decent note, making it 9-6 before the world No.6 Chinese equalised 10-all. Then Yihan upped the ante with a dominant performance. Four points at a stretch meant it was 14-10 and after Saina took a point, another two quick points for Yihan made it 16-11.

Thereafter, Yihan piled further pressure on the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist before taking the game 21-16.

In the second game, 28-year-old Yihan made her intentions very clear from the beginning. Taking a cue from the way she finished the first game, she combined stamina, power, deception and quick feet to hold a 11-4 lead at the break. And it soon became 13-4 after which Saina took three consecutive points to make it 7-13.

Yihan then added more sharpness to her game as she took five points at a stretch to put herself on the verge of the entry to the final. Then Saina took a couple of points but Yihan gained two more points to reach match-point.

Saina delayed Yihan’s celebration for a bit as she took five points on the trot. But to no avail, shutting the door on the Indian’s yet another shot at the elusive Asian crown.

Sunday’s final pits Yihan against her famed compatriot, the reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui, who moved past South Korean seventh seed Sung Ji Hyun 22-20, 21-11 in 40 minutes.

Both Yihan and Xuerui have won nine games against each other and will be vying to earn their third Asian title.

Meanwhile, Malaysian icon Lee Chong Wei battled past old nemesis Lin Dan of China 22-20, 15-21, 21-4 in an hour and 11 minutes to set up a title showdown against reigning world champion Chen Long.

World No.2 Chong Wei and No.3 Lin produced some vintage badminton as the fans savoured another gem of a match between the two greats of the sport.

Chong Wei come back from 4-10 down in the first game to win 22-20. In the second game, Lin showed some of his finest net-play as he clinched the third game 21-15.

Chong Wei, who lost to Lin in the last two Olympics’ finals, produced a series of his trademark high-jump smashes to deflate the 32-year-old Chinese in the third game that was a cakewalk for the 33-year-old Malaysian.

With this win, Chong Wei improved his head-to-head record against Lin to 11-26.

In the final, Chong Wei will face Chen as the latter brushed past fifth seed Tian Houwei 21-14, 21-16 in 50 minutes in an all-Chinese semi-final.

The final will be the 25th match between Chong Wei and world No.1 Chen, both having won 12 matches. While Chong Wei will be aiming to grab his second continental title — first came 10 years ago, Chen will eye his first Asian title, after getting two silvers and three bronze medals.



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