Published: Saturday March 9, 2013 MYT 9:32:00 AM
Badminton: Nehwal nearer All-England dream
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Saina Nehwal took a step nearer becoming the first Indian woman ever to win the All-England title when she reached the semi-finals after a long drawn-out battle with a former champion.
Her 23-21, 19-21, 21-16 win over Wang Shixian, the 2011 winner from China, was a long, fluctuating and tense affair, in which mistakes were mixed with well constructed rallies, with Nehwal chiselling out a match-winning lead after the interval in the third game.
Always bearing a heavy burden of expectation from the world's second most populous nation, Nehwal also has extra pressure of expectations from being the highest seed left in her event.
The top-seeded titleholder Li Xuerui was beaten on the first day.
The second-seeded Commonwealth champion also remained wary, right to the last point, of her mobile opponent's capacity to recover, even from a big deficit.
"She has the kind of game which makes it possible to come back, and I've seen her do that before," Nehwal said.
"I tried to make sure I kept my focus right to the end and I think I did that.
"She plays a rallying game, and that make it difficult to play against. I do too, so it was a tough match, and it is important to recover well.
"I have to handle the pressure of expectations from the Indian fans and hopefully I am doing that. I'm just happy to get through this."
It was only when she played the more consistent badminton in the third game, whilst still moving the shuttle around well, that she extended a small lead to 15-8 at its maximum.
Her mistakes were often accompanied by a loud yelp, something which happened more frequently in the first game, in which he came back from 16-19 to snatch it, and in the second, in which she let slip a lead of 18-15.
Wang showed what a fine fighter she was, even nosing ahead at 7-6 in the decider.
But her problems began to grow with two line decisions which annoyed her, first to put her 7-8 down and then to go 7-11 down.
On the first of these she stared and then tilted her head back in frustration; on the second she dropped her racket and glared at the umpire.
She had 60 seconds mid-game interval and her coach's calming words to help her get over these setbacks.
But by then Nehwal had built up some momentum and her capture of four of the next five points created a cushion which was never pulled from under her.
Later, however, China did get a singles player through to a semi-final, and also scored a win over India.
That happened when Chen Long, the second seed in the men's event, overcame Kashyap Parupalli, the world number nine, by 21-16, 21-10, after trailing 11-13 in the first game. - AFP