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Djarum Indonesia Open: Saina defeats Marin to reach semis

Anand Datla
FEATURED COLUMNIST
1.12K   //    14 Jun 2013, 19:15 IST

BADMINTON-INA

World No.2 Saina Nehwal fought off a spirited challenge from Carolina Marin to advance into the semi-finals of the Djarum Indonesia Open 2013. Saina scored a laboured 21-16, 21-19 victory over her 20 year old opponent to keep her title defence alive. It took the Indian 39 minutes get past the left handed Spaniard.

Saina won the first point when she used the space at the back of the court to her advantage, inducing an error from Marin. In the early stages Saina showed good control around the court by effectively combining power to send her opponent deep before finishing points with a feathery touch at the net to retain a slender lead.

Marin proved she could hang with the Indian, battling hard to stay even with the world No. 2 at 7-7. The Spaniard was making intelligent use of the pace by leading Saina along the width of the court before clinching the point with the use of clever placement.

The 27th ranked Marin has been enjoying a relatively pleasant season, having lost just three times this year. The defending champion was the one under relative pressure when the players took the break with the Indian leading 11-10.

After the break Saina presented a far more assured front, upping the ante with her controlled aggression. As Saina opened up a three point gap at 18-15, Carolina got too eager at the net and muffed a forehand to leave Saina two points from taking the game.

Saina took a one game lead when the stretched leftie failed to send the bird across the net with her forehand at 20-16. It was a solid response from the 2nd ranked Indian after being a little hustled in the early part of the game by the enterprising Spaniard.

At the start of the second game, Saina seemed bothered by a sore knee and a series of miscued shots left her trailing 2-7. A brilliant smash to the backhand side of Marin signalled the Indian’s intent to cover the widening chasm as she took serve at 4-8.

The gap was down to three, when Marin went for too much at the net trying to finish the point with a sharp angled drop shot at the net. Marin’s lack of experience against top players and the smell of opportunity were clouding the judgement of the 20 year old from Andalucia. The experienced Indian took advantage of the youngster’s inexperience to stay in touch at 8-9.

The game turned even at 10 points each, but Marin kept up the pressure by opening up a three point gap at 13-10 which grew wider with the Spaniard looking to extend the match into a decisive third game. Marin looked assured at 16-12, while Saina was showing signs of weariness making unnecessary errors.

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An anxious Saina twisted her ankle and fell on court as she was treading backwards to retrieve the shuttle. Marin had a three point cushion at 18-15. Saina sent one long on the next point to trail by four points. A couple of errors from Marin narrowed the lead to just two and a craft drop smash from Saina reigned in the Spaniard.

Nerves clearly got the better of Marin who made expensive errors to allow Saina to tie the score at 19-19. Marin sent a backhand wide to offer match point to the Indian. The match was in the bag when the Spaniard failed to return a dropping shuttle across the net with her backhand.

In the end the experience of Indian and raw nerves of the young Spaniard in key moments accounted for the difference between the two players. Saina had 10 smash winners to 9 from her opponent, while her 16 winners at the net were two more than her left handed opponent.

The world No. 2 will take on the 4th seeded Julianne Schenk for a place in the finals on Sunday. Saina has a clear 8-3 edge over her opponent, including the last three matches. Saina won their previous encounter at the BWF Superseries Finals in December last year.

The other semi-final will be contested between the world No. 1 Xuerui Li and the 25th ranked Pui Yin Yip. While the top seed has never lost to the Hong Kong player in their seven previous matches, Yip did extend Li to three lengthy games at the Yonex German Open this February. It took nearly an hour and all her experience for Xuerui to eventually prevail 21-16, 19-21, 21-11.

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