Saina Nehwal At Cusp Of Indian Badminton History

16/08/2015 7:52 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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In this photograph taken on March 25, 2015, Saina Nehwal of India reacts during her women's badminton singles match against Riay Mukherjee of India at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open 2015 at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi. Badminton star Saina Nehwal has shrugged off mounting pressure over whether she will become the first Indian woman ever to clinch the world number one ranking, at the Indian Open in New Delhi. Nehwal, currently number two after reaching the prestigious All-England Championship final this month, is expected to snatch the number one spot if she wins the tournament in front of a home crowd. AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Wounded by a humiliating defeat by Sri Lanka in the Galle Test, India will know on Sunday if another champion, in another sport, can salvage that loss. If badminton ace, Saina Nehwal, can overcome world no.1 Carolina Marina of Spain in the final of the Badminton World Championships, it would be the first time an Indian has won at this tournament.

World No.2 Nehwal notched up a 21-17 21-17 win over Indonesia's Lindaweni Fanetri, who was struggling with her right knee, in the semifinals of the women's singles on Saturday.

Irrespective of Saina's win or loss, it is already India's best ever performance at these championships. Saina's silver or gold would be India's fifth medal and the furthest any Indian has progressed at the World Championship. P V Sindhu clinched the bronze twice in 2013 and 2014 and Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa notched up a bronze in women's doubles at the 2011 edition.

Legendary shuttler Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a bronze at the 1983 edition.

Nehwal, who has won close to 20 international titles including the Olympics bronze, was always unlucky when it came to the World championship. She was struck down by chicken pox once, stomach bug later - the 24-year-old was always laid low by some off-court problems. Even before the Worlds she was suffering from shoulder niggle but she did not allow that to affect her game.

Also Read: 'The Last Year Has Been The Toughest Time Of My Life:' Saina Nehwal

The semi-finals on Saturday between Nehwal and Fanetri was a grinding duel. Fanetri, the home-crowd favourtie, was playing with a strapping on her right knee, engaged in long rallies and gave Nehwal a tough fight at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

Lindaweni opened up a 6-2 lead early on in the first game as Saina tried to get a hang of the drift in the stadium. The Indonesian had to take some tips from the team doctor after feeling some pain in her knee at 7-6.

The Indonesian looked restricted in her movement as Saina clawed back at 9-9 and grabbed the lead next when Lindaweni hit wide. A service fault helped Lindaweni to level score at 10-10 but Saina went into the break with a 11-10 lead after winning a long rally.

After the interval, Saina increased the gap to 15-12 but the Indian committed a few unforced errors to allow Lindaweni draw parity at 15-15. A net fault and a wide shot by the Indonesian gave Saina a 18-16 lead.

(With inputs from PTI)

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