Shuttlers lose, but raise hope
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Saina Nehwal, playing her first career match against the Chinese world No 1 Yihan Wang, looked evenly matched for most parts before she failed at the finish in her opening singles of their quarter-final of the Uber Cup in Malaysia on Wednesday.
Her 56-minute 14-21 21-11 21-18 fighting loss can be termed the only encouraging spot on a gloomy day for India, who were similarly blanked 3-0 in both the men's Thomas Cup (vs Indonesia) and the women's Uber Cup (vs China). And that's because resistance wasn't the popular theme on a day of lopsided submission by both teams, whose campaigns ended without much ado.
Still, the presence of both Indian teams in the quarter-finals was a positive progress from previous years.
Nehwal, in fact, started commandingly as she used the net and her attack to good effect as she raced to take the first game 21-14, never challenged after breaking away at 6-all. Catching her breath, and perhaps affected by the switch of sides with the heavy drift affecting players' gameplans, Nehwal conceded momentum in the next game as she was clamped in her offence and at the net.
It was in the third game, though, that she reclaimed her movement, building up a 8-5 lead before the top-ranked Chinese turned the tables, winnning five points in a clutch. Thereafter, the 20-year-old sixth-ranked Indian levelled twice at 10-10 and 17-17, but had fallen back on the net exchanges and was forced to go back to her last-gasp attacking smashes in the final moments of the match.
The Chinese girl remained nerveless at 18-18 and collected the next three points cooly to give China a 1-0 lead from the only match in which they could be threatened.
The Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponappa pair continued to remain listless, losing the first doubles 21-8 21-11 against Ma Jin and Xiaoli Wang. National coach P Gopichand then offered Sayali Gokhale a chance to test herself against the Chinese firepower, though Xin Wang was untroubled during her 21-10 21-14 victory to complete the 3-0 rout.
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