Jakarta: World No.2 shuttler Saina Nehwal created history by becoming the first Indian to enter the final of the badminton World Championships as the second seed defeated a stubborn Lindaweni Fanetri 21-17, 21-17 in a women’s singles semi-final here on Saturday.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina prevailed in a 55-minute encounter against the world No.29 Indonesian. In the final on Sunday, the 25-year-old Indian will meet defending champion and top seed Carolina Marin of Spain, who overcame eighth seeded South Korean Sung Ji Hyun 21-17, 15-21, 21-16 in one hour and 30 minutes.
Saina holds a 3-1 advantage in career meetings against the world No.1, who defeated the former in the final of this year’s All England Championships.
Going into the match, Saina was the heavy favourite but her opponent made a very good start. Saina took some time to attain momentum as Fanetri held a 6-2 lead. But once the former World No.1 found her rhythm, she seized the initiative and pushed her rival on the backfoot.
Fanetri was forced to play catch up but remained close to Saina’s score at the Istora Senayan stadium. The Hyderabadi held a three-point lead at 14-11 but Fanetri kept coming back, equalising at 15-all. They were involved in long rallies for the next two points.
However, at 17-17, Saina utilised her experience and finished the game in her favour by taking three consecutive points. Saina’s deft net play played a key role in getting the better of the local talent of the same age.
At the start of the second game, when the score read 2-1 in favour of strong favourite Saina, Fanetri suffered a knock to her heavily bandaged right knee after a fall but continued her fight. Urged on by a vociferous partisan crowd, Fanetri kept fighting on even though she seemed to be struggling in her movements on the court.
At the break, the second seeded Indian held a 11-10 lead before Fanetri equalised. Saina grabbed three points at a stretch to make it 14-11 but Fanetri equalised at the same score with sharp drop shots.
But Saina fought back for a 17-14 lead before her opponent employed two sharp smashes to make it 16-17. Saina got two more points before her opponent reduced the deficit to one at 18-17.
However, Saina once again wrestled the key moments as she bagged three consecutive points to seal the game 21-17 and march into the final. With this win, the former world junior champion took a 3-1 lead in career meetings against the Indonesian.
India has won four bronze medals at the Worlds till date. Prakash Padukone became the first Indian to win the metal in 1983 in men’s singles. India had to wait for another 28 years when Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa clinched the women’s doubles bronze in 2011. P.V. Sindhu won two back-to-back women’s singles bronzes in 2013 and 2014.
Meanwhile in the men’s singles competition, world No.1 Chen Long remained on course to defend his title following a dominating 21-9, 21-15 win over talented Japanese and fourth seed Kento Momota.
The Chinese will face former world No.1 and three-time runner-up Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, who ousted second seed Jan O. Jorgensen of Denmark 21-7, 21-19. Long has a 11-9 head-to-head record against the veteran Malaysian.
Meanwhile for a second year in a row it will be an all Chinese affair in the final of the mixed doubles. Top-ranked pair Zhang Nang and Zhao Yunlei defeated Indonesian duo Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir 20-22, 23-21, 21-12, while fourth seeded Chinese pair Liu Cheng and Bao Yixin beat their second seeded compatriots Xu Chen and Ma Jin 21-13, 15-21, 21-19.