BWF Super Series Finals: Saina Nehwal scripts sensational victory against World champ Carolina Marin

Dubai: Saina Nehwal scripted a remarkable victory over reigning World Champion Carolina Marin to turn around her campaign at the BWF Super Series Finals even as Srikanth faced exit after suffering his second straight loss in the men’s singles here today. 

Facing early exit after her capitulation against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara yesterday, Saina rose like a phoenix to notch up a memorable 23-21 9-21 21-12 win over the World No. 1 in a women’s singles match that lasted an hour and 15 minutes. The Indian plays defending champion Tai Tzu Ying in her final league match tomorrow.

Saina NehwalSaina Nehwal reacts after winning a point against Carolina Marin during the women’s singles match during the Dubai World Superseries Finals badminton tournament in Dubai on Thursday. Pic/AFP

World No. 8 Srikanth’s campaign is almost over after he went down 13-21 18-21 to Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen in a Group B match. His hope of progressing any further hinges on a match between Japan’s Kento Momota and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen.

The 22-year-old from Guntur will meet Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen tomorrow in his final Group B match in the round-robin stage. In the women’s singles match that saw a lot of vociferous cheering and vocal celebrations and pumping of fist, it was Saina who walked away with a smile on her face.

Saina came out with a positive attitude and it reflected in her game as she used her repertoire of strokes to tame her formidable opponent, who was not as nimble-footed as Okuhara and also committed too many errors on her forehand. 

In the opening game, Saina led 9-4 but she misjudged a couple of shots and Marin too stepped up the pressure by dominating the net to grab the lead with six straight points.

However, Saina ensured she had the advantage at the break. 

Marin tried to keep the shuttle at the forecourt by drawing Saina close to the net and marched ahead to 15-12. Saina fought back and wrested control at 16-15 when the Spaniard hit the net. Saina continued to surge ahead with Marin succumbing to unforced errors, reaching 19-16. 

Marin then drew level at 19-19 before Saina earned the game point with Marin finding the net. But a couple of wayward shots and it was 21-20 in favour of Marin. However, another forehand return going to net and a wide shot by Marin gave the game point to Saina, who grabbed it this time. 

The second game started on an aggressive note with the duo battling like warriors. Saina kept her poise and even smiled at her mistakes while pumping her fist after winning crucial points.

Marin kept the shuttle at back hand and deep forehand of Saina, testing her all the time. She moved into the lead at 7-5. The Spaniard was called for a fault when her racquet touched the net but unfazed, she continued to race ahead and entered the interval with a five point advantage.

Saina tried to slow down the pace of the rallies after the break but Marin continued to dominate by playing her acute angled strokes. The Indian also faltered with a few unforced errors to allow Marin to gallop away with the second game.

The decider started on an aggressive note again as once again the duo fought tooth and nail. Saina moved into a slender 10-5 lead at one stage before Marin reduced it down to 8-11. However, a mistimed shot gave Hyderabadi an 11-8 lead at the interval.

Saina continued to exert pressure on her opponent after the break and pushed her to commit errors. Marin’s unforced errors fuelled Saina’s charge as she extended her lead to 16-8. A couple of terrific angled smashes took Saina to 19-9. 

Marin grabbed three points then but Saina moved into the match point when Marin hit wide and closed the issue comfortably in the end.

In the men’s singles, Srikanth, who had beaten Viktor twice early this year en route to his triumph at Swiss Open and India Open, could not produce his best. 

In the first game, World No 6 Viktor moved into a 6-3 lead in the opening game but Srikanth kept breathing down his neck and played some exciting rallies by mixing his shots. The Indian clawed back to level the scores after catching his rival in the forecourt.

However Viktor entered the break with a 11-10 lead after Srikanth misjudged a shuttle as it fell on the baseline. A few unforced errors and some sharp strokes helped Viktor to swell the lead to 16-11 after the interval. 

Srikanth tried to keep the shuttles in the corners but he couldn’t control it properly as Dane led 20-13 and went on to win the game. 

In the second game, Srikanth seemed little unsure of his strokes as his smashes went wide and Viktor too used his variation to dominate the proceedings. He once again opened up an 8-4 lead and entered the break with a six point advantage.

After the interval, Viktor stepped on the gas and his smashes got more precise even as Srikanth struggled with his returns going wide and buried at net. Viktor quickly moved to an 18-10 lead.

Srikanth then started playing better and came up with some steep smashes and low returns to trouble the Dane and narrowed the lead down to 15-19.

Viktor then played an amazing shot to move to match point. The Indian saved three match points but Viktor sealed the match with another cross court smash.