World no. 5 Saina Nehwal romped past her opponent, Lianne Tan of Belgium, to qualify from Group E. Having won her first match against Swiss Sabrina Jaquet in 22 minutes (21-9, 21-4), Saina needed to beat Lianne, who had beaten the Swiss as well, to go through, since only one player progresses per group.
The first game was fairly predictable, with Saina dominating play, racing into a quick lead, before finishing off in style in front of the surprisingly silent crowd. Saina mixed up her play, combining smashes with well disguised drop shots to leave her opponent clueless, and finish the game 21-4.
Lianne Tan put up a bit more of a fight in the second game, staying neck to neck with the Hyderabadi for the first ten points before Saina slowly pulled ahead, made the game her own, and won it 21-14. The result, coming in 28 minutes, put Saina through to the next round, the round of 16, where she will be facing knockout competition.
On a day which has brought mixed cheer and heartbreak for the Indians, our best bet for Gold seems to be our ace shuttler, as she displayed dominant form, which was assuring of the fact that she is a force to reckon with. Just four steps away from being immortalised in Olympic history, Saina will have 1.2 billion hearts resting on her shoulders, hoping for glory. We can only hope that spurs her on, and doesn’t weigh her down. Go Saina!
Result: Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt. Lianne Tan (Bel) 21-4 21-14