Saturday, August 10, 2013

No longer lonely at the top

Mumbai :Saturday, Aug 10, 2013(7STARNEWS)As PV Sindhu made it to the semifinals of the World Badminton Championships in her maiden appearance at the tournament, Saina Nehwal bowed out in quarters for the fourth time.

The contrast could not have been more evident.

After Thursday's high, Saina and Parupalli Kashyap crashed out of the championships in Guangzhou in the quarterfinals. But the rising star Sindhu, saved the day for India, assuring herself of a medal .

While third seed Saina was not in her elements when she was tamed by Korea's 13th seed Yeon Ju Bae in straight games 21-23 9-21 in 40 minutes, Kashyap lost to China's world No. 3 Du Pengyu 21-16 20-22 15-21 in an hour and a quarter.

Saina has been India's torch-bearer in the sport for a long time and Friday's results does not alter her status but she will now have to contend with being compared to Sindhu, who incidentally is from her city — Hyderabad.

Saina's coach P Gopichand told dna that there is nothing wrong with her game and that she had a stomach problem. He added that she will bounce back to her best soon.

This was Saina's best chance to win a medal that has eluded her at the World Championships where she has not gone beyond the quarterfinal stage in each of her previous three appearances. After a bronze medal in last year's London Olympics, Saina should have settled for nothing less than silver at the Worlds.

However, as is almost a norm with the 23-year-old Indian who dropped one place to fourth rank on Thursday, she was not up to it when it mattered. It is a mystery that Saina has not been able to go beyond the last eight in World Championships. And that too in four times.

Former Olympian Aparna Popat said that no comparisons should be made between Sindhu entering the semifinal and Saina losing in the quarterfinals. "Both are at different stages of their careers, different ages. Sindhu is just starting whereas Saina has achieved a lot at the international stage," Aparna said on Friday.

If you look at the record books, you will know Popat is right. Saina has won a host of Super Series titles and an Olympic bronze besides winning the Commonwealth Games gold. On the other hand, Sindhu is just starting and yet to win a Super Series title. Sindhu won her first major title, the Malaysian Grand Prix Gold in April this year.

Former national champion Vimal Kumar seconded Popat. He added, "Don't know why Sania is losing repeatedly in quarterfinals of world championships. It happens to most Indian sportspersons. They are under various pressure, not training aspect but other commitments, finding it difficult to cope up with. Saina should arrest this and move on.

"Today, Saina looked completely drained out. Nothing to do fitness wise. Saina has won so many Super Series titles. Sindhu has just started her career. Now, Sindhu needs to be consistent."

Saina's coach P Gopichand refused to read much into Saina's loss on Friday and added that she will be back at her best soon.

"Saina is a class act. The thing is we expect her to win all the time. She wasn't feeling great today.

She had some trouble with her stomach.

"In fact, she hasn't been feeling all that good ever since we landed in China three days ago. She felt a total loss of energy, especially in the second game (which she lost 9-21). But let me tell you this is just a phase. She will be back at her best soon."

In the quarterfinals on Friday, Bae did not have the smash that Saina possesses. She had only three points one from this aggressive stroke against Saina. However, she worked on the Indian's weaknesses, winning points by dropping at the net and placing out of opponent's reach. Saina ought to blame herself for letting the world No 16 to bounce back in the first game.

Saina was leading 14-7 in the first game. She let go the advantage as Bae drew her close to the net with net drops and the resultant returns from Saina did not go beyond her court. Even as the two exchanged serves, Saina had the opportunity to clinch the game when serving at 20-19, Bae dropped at the net and a stretching Saina could not put it across. This allowed Bae to draw level and eventually win the game 23-21.

The second game was all about Bae's cleverness and Saina's errors, frustrating the Indian.

Kashyap was the first among the Indians to take the court and won the first game to take the advantage over the Chinese just when Saina's quarterfinal was about to start. However, by the time Kashyap went down fighting, Saina had already made her exit from the tournament.
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