Saina Nehwal: I was playing against the crowd

Jakarta: Moments after becoming the first Indian to enter the World Badminton Championship finals, Indian ace Saina Nehwal said she never expected to reach the summit clash and it was one of her “toughest” matches this week.

Also read: Saina Nehwal enters final of badminton World Championships

Saina Nehwal

“I never thought I’d reach the final,” said Saina after assuring herself of at least a silver following a 21-17, 21-17 win over World No 29 Lindaweni Fanetri of Indonesia in the semi-finals of the women’s singles on Saturday.

‘Week’s toughest match’
“It was one of my toughest matches this week, I was playing against the crowd. Whatever points she got was due to my mistakes, due to the pressure. She was playing without any tension,” said Saina.

“She has been coming back strongly in her matches in this tournament and I wasn’t relaxed; I was alert all along for her fightback,” she added.

Also read: Super Saina Nehwal must think out-of-the-box against Carolina Marin, says Sanjay Sharma

Going into the match, Saina was the heavy favourite but her opponent made a very good start. Saina took some time to attain momentum as Fanetri held a 6-2 lead. But once the former World No 1 found her rhythm, she seized the initiative and pushed her rival on the backfoot.

At 17-17, Saina utilised her experience and finished the game in her favour by taking three consecutive points.
At the start of the second game, Fanetri suffered a knock to her heavily bandaged right knee after a fall but continued her fight. Urged on by a vociferous partisan crowd, Fanetri kept fighting on even though she seemed to be struggling in her movements on the court.

The Olympic bronze medallist will next take on All England champion, World No 1 and defending champion Carolina Marin at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium today.

‘Final will be tricky’
“I just want to do well tomorrow. With Carolina Marin in the final, it will be tricky. She has some fast-paced strokes. It will be a different match compared to the All England final since the conditions are different,” Saina said. It would be India’s fifth medal at the World Championships.

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