Birmingham: In a major heartbreak, Saina Nehwal lost the women's singles final of the $500,000 All England Open Badminton Championships to Spain's Carolina Marin here on Sunday.
In her attempt to become the first Indian woman to win the prestigious Super Series Premier event, she took off well to win the opening game and lead in the second. However, a major turnaround saw the reigning World Champion demonstrate pure skill and class to earn a come-from-behind 16-21, 21-14, 21-7 win in an hour and two minutes.
Saina Nehwal. Pic/PTI
Playing in front of a packed Barclaycard Arena with the crowd chanting "India, India" and "Come on Saina", the World No.3 started well by convincingly winning the first game and looked to emulate the legendary Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand, who won the title in 1980 and 2001, respectively.
The World No.3 had a brilliant start with supreme all-court play to easily dominate her European opponent. The third seed used her experience to go in to an 11-6 lead which she almost doubled up to reach gamepoint at 20-11. The sixth seed managed to save five points before a body smash by Saina helped her to take the lead in the match.
In the second game the sixth seed matched her Asian opponent but Saina appeared to have the edge when she took a 10-6 lead. However, the reigning European champion turned the tables to first level the game at 11-all and again at 13-all and then race away to win eight of the next nine available points to level the match.
Saina's smashes were regularly being picked by the Spanish World No.6, who upped the ante to change the momentum of the contest. Carolina used her deceiving shots and sliced smashes to good effect to take the lead. By now, the 24-year-old Indian appeared unable to win points and she also made some poor line calls.
The more the rallies extended, the better it proved to be for the 21-year-old Carolina as Saina hurried to close the points and made errors. In the end, a wayward shot allowed Carolina to level the match and push it to the decider.
The third game was a one-way show as Carolina totally routed her opponent, who had by now definitely lost the momentum and the confidence to win the match. By the mid-game break, Carolina had gone on to a big 11-4 lead.
Her shots and lightning movement were too fast for Saina, who slumped to her first defeat to the Spaniard in four meetings.