Having had just one day to recover from their heart-breaking losses in the semi-finals, Saina Nehwal and Xin Wang were both looking for redemption in their bronze medal match. While Saina lost out to the top seed, Wang, seeded 2nd, lost out to the third seed, and compatriot, Li.
Saina began the game the brighter of the two players, going up 4-2, before Wang pulled it back almost immediately, leading briefly at 5-6, before Saina levelled scores up at 6-all. Wang would have none of it though, going on a 5-point streak to make into the break with a 5-point advantage, score at 6-11. Wang’s dominance continued post the break, with unforced errors from Saina contributing to it, the lead stretched to 8-points at 6-14. Saina finally notched a point, to tumultuous applause from the crowd. Saina pulled her act together thereon, making gains to cut the lead down to 5 points, score at 10-15. It was a highly frustrating watch for the Indian fans, as they saw their golden girl make repeated unforced errors, conceding a 7-point lead at 10-17. Saina put pressure on Wang’s back-hand play to try and inch back into the game, trailing still at 13-18. An error of judgment by Saina, along with clever play from Wang, saw the Chinese player gain 6 match points at 14-20. A couple of good points from Saina, and an error of judgment by Wang later, Saina found herself trailing by just 2 points at 18-20. More importantly though, Wang fell over awkwardly, twisting her ankle, and requiring the physio’s attention immediately. The brave Wang decided to get on with the game, taping herself up, and returning to the court of play. The injury made little difference to the first game though, as Wang finally wrapped it up with a cross-court play, the score reading 18-21.
Saina began the game, serving to Wang, who seemed to be in a hurry to finish the point off. It was soon obvious why, since despite winning the point, Wang collapsed in the centre of the court, unable to stand her injury any longer. That was it for the Chinese player, as she was escorted away from the court, leaving Saina with India’s first medal in Badminton at the Olympics.
Wild cheering from the crowd was merely a fraction of the celebration it will have evoked back home at India, and it is fully deserved as well. Well done, Saina!
Result: Saina Nehwal (IND) bt. Xin Wang (CHN) 18-21 0-1. Wang retired hurt.