England: Carolina Marin, the 21-year-old Andalucian who created one of the biggest sensations in badminton history last year, created another by becoming the first Spaniard ever to win an All-England title.
Marin did that with a 16-21, 21-14, 21-7 women’s singles win over Saina Nehwal, the world number three from India.
And it was a remarkable result for someone from a country where until now little badminton has been played, and one which follows her startling capture of the world title in Copenhagen last year.
What made it all the more stunning was that Marin had never beaten Nehwal before and that she did so this time, having looked headed for defeat at a game and 6-10 down.
But she transformed both the tactical emphasis and the emotion of the match, and well before the end Nehwal’s skills and movement seemed to have strangely evaporated.
“This is quite amazing for me,” said Marin. “I lost to her every time before, so to beat her like this, and in this tournament, is very special indeed.
“It was special when I won the world title – so many people met me at the airport – and this feels very special too. We shall see how people react this time.”
Nehwal, who now has to be content with being the first Indian woman to reach this final, nevertheless started well, moving into a three-point lead at once, and extending it to nine points before consolidating it to 20-11, at which stage it seemed that the match night become very one-sided.
– Deceptive –
That was because in the process Nehwal also showed how she might be tactically superior.
She often kept the shuttle low and flat, away from Marin’s fine smashing and, when she lifted the shuttle, she usually moved it form side to side and was mostly accurate enough.
Nehwal was also often better at the mid-court pushing and jabbing exchanges, and it became unclear how Marin was going to get back into the match.
It was not until the Spaniard won the point which earned her the serve at 9-15 that she managed to land one of her powerful and deceptive round-the-head smashes for a winner.
But Marin started to come good when she won five points in a row before losing the first game.
And from the mid-stage of the second game she started to hustle and dictate much more, improving greatly in the mid-court exchanges, and fighting much harder.
Even then Marin went 6-10 down in the second game, at which point thoughts of winning the title which had been her childhood dream might well have come into Nehwal’s head.
But when Marin had hit a trademark smash followed by a kill to reach 17-13, she showed a fist and strutted provocatively across the net, and from the then on the emotions of the contest changed, as well as its tactics.
– Unstoppable –
And once Marin had closed out the second set after a rat-a-tat mid-court exchange she got completely on top, and Nehwal seemed unable to respond. “I just lost focus and began hurrying, which was not right,” Nehwal said.
“Playing against top players anything can happen at any stage, and you can always get nervous at some point in time. That’s what happened here.”
By the change of ends in the decider Marin had become unstoppable.
She finished with a fierce sequence of attacks and when she had won threw herself on the floor and covered her eyes, before leaping up to begin a series of embraces.
“At 9-11 in the second I heard my coach calling to me,” she said. “I stuck to my game plan (speeding the rallies up more) and tried to make less mistakes. I could feel it was beginning to work but then it started working very quickly.”
In women’s doubles, Bao Yixin/Tang Yuanting of China defeated Wang Xiaoli/Yu Yang 21-14, 21-14 to win the women’s doubles title.