Saina Nehwal surrenders to Xuerui (pic)

TOO HARD TO DIGEST: Saina nehwal breaks down after losing in the semifinals of the badminton Asia Championship in New Delhi. At right is coach Gopi Chand.

An unscheduled ‘off-day’ for Saina Nehwal made things easier for the ruthless Chinese brigade that monopolised the spots in the singles finals of the Badminton Asia championship on Saturday. TOO HARD TO DIGEST: Saina nehwal breaks down after losing in the semifinals of the badminton Asia Championship in New Delhi. At right is coach Gopi Chand.

Making a mockery of the world rankings and seedings, Saina’s conqueror Xuerui Li — ranked 147 in the world — and fellow Chinese qualifier Xin Liu gate-crashed into the final. Xin Liu took out the second-seeded Hong Kong girl Mi Zhou. Incidentally, never before have two qualifiers battled for the continental title.

The men’s final will be between training partners — World champion and second seed Lin Dan and unseeded Zhengming Wang. Lin gained control in the closing stages of the first game against Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana to win in straight games after Wang knocked out sixth-seeded Japanese Kenichi Tago, the All England finalist.

Shortest semifinal

For a crowd that braved the hot weather to cheer Saina at the Siri Fort Sports Complex, the afternoon was a highly forgettable one. The Hyderabad girl committed far too many errors, admitted to losing her focus in the second game and surrendered in just 31 minutes — the shortest of the 10 semifinals on Saturday.

“Since I had not played her before, I did not know how to prepare against her. I made too many mistakes today. I play fast and aggressively, but she was faster and more aggressive today. I should have slowed down the game and been more patient.

“The first game was still fine but somehow I was not in the match in the second. I did not even go for some of the strokes. I could not execute what my coach was telling me. By the time, I got my plan right, she was 19-11 up in the second game,” was the candid admission from Saina, ranked sixth in the world.

Too many mistakes

Xuerui Li, the 19-year-old winner of the 2008 Asian junior champion, said, “I thought Saina was too tight today, perhaps due to expectations from her. I did not have to work too hard because Saina made many mistakes.”

In the other semifinal, Xin Liu needed 36 minutes to send Mi Zhou packing. Xin Liu, the 2007 Asian junior champion, took the initiative and there was no respite for the fancied Mi Zhou.

The results (semifinals):

Men’s singles: Zhangming Wang (Chn) bt Kenichi Tago (Jpn) 21-14, 19-21, 21-16; Lin Dan (Chn) bt Boonsak Ponsana (Tha) 22-20, 21-10.

Women’s singles: Xuerui Li (Chn) bt Saina Nehwal 21-17, 21-11; Xin Liu (Chn) bt Mi Zhou (Hkg) 21-15, 21-18.

Men’s doubles: Hung Ling Chen & Yu Lang Lin (Tpe) bt Sang Hoon Han & Ji Man Hwang (Kor) 21-18, 12-21, 21-18; Gun Woo Cho & Yeon Seong Yoo (Kor) bt Chieh Min Fang & Sheng Mu Lee (Tpe) 21-18, 22-20.

Women’s doubles: Vivian Kah Mun Hoo & Khe Wei Woon (Mas) bt Savitree Amitapai & Vacharaporn Munkit (Tha) 18-21, 21-17, 21-14; Pan Pan & Qing Tian (Chn) bt Wen Hsing Cheng (Tpe) & Yu Chin Chien (Tpe) 22-24, 21-16, 21-18.

Mixed doubles: Yeon Seong Yoo & Min Jung Kim (Kor) bt Zihan Qiu & Qing Tian (Chn) 24-22, 13-21, 21-11; Peng Soo Chan & Liu Ying Goh (Mas) bt Devin L.T. & Lilyana (Ina) 12-21, 20-19, 21-15.


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