Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal missed out on an opportunity to become the first Indian to clinch a gold medal at the World Badminton Championship when she lost to World No. 1 Carolina Marin 16-21, 19-21 in the final of the World badminton Championship in Jakarta on Sunday. Leading 3-1 over the defending champion in previous fixtures, Saina wrested the advantage on more than one occasion to emerge second-best and settle for a silver medal finish.
A day after delivering a knockout-blow to Indonesia’s Lindaweni Fanetri in straight games 21-17, 21-17, Saina endured her second successive loss in a major final, even though her it was the best performance by an Indian in the event that began as far back as 1977.
Both players came out to massive reception, but as the match progressed, the Spain contingent grew louder. Both Saina and Carolina begun on a strong note and the Indian was initially leading 7-5, but the Spaniard, moving at lightening speed took advantage of her height and began looking at ease picking the Indian’s drop shots. Carolina opened a four-point advantage over Saina to make it 11-7 in the first game.
Celebrating each point with a scream of joy, Carolina moved to 16-11 courtesy a flurry of smashes angled at Saina’s body. The Indian tried valiantly to erase the deficit but Carolina was in cruise mode and extended a seven point lead at 20-13. Looking far from her best, Saina could manage just three more points before the Spaniard sealed the first game with another lightning-quick smash.
Once the second game got underway, Saina came into her own and was off the blocks early, opening up a 3-1 lead. Moving at a much-improved speed, Saina turned the tables and took a four-point lead of her own. She looked calm, composed and reserved despite leading 11-6 in second game. She seemed to be in her elements, but soon lost steam, which allowed her opponent to bag the next seven points in a row.
Carolina was further aided by the support from the Spain section in the crowd, who cheered her on with every shot. At 13-12, Saina used yet another firmly-hit body smash to draw level. She responded well to Carolina’s smashes, which caught the Spaniard off-guard. However, the surge didn’t last long as Saina once again squandered her advantage and allowed Carolina to crawl back and make it 20-18. Saina saved one match point, but it was all over when her shot dropped outside the line, much to the heartbreak of Indian fans who were expecting her to make history.
India’s desire to bag a world gold will have to wait. No player from the country has yet managed to reach the summit stage since the World Championships started in 1977. The legendary Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a medal (a bronze) in 1983, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa bagged a women’s doubles bronze in 2011 and PV Sindhu clinched back-to-back bronze medals in 2013 and 2014.