Jakarta: Top Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal had to be content with a bronze medal after suffering her 10th straight defeat to world number one Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in the women’s singles semifinals of the 18th Asian Games, here today.
World number 10 and Olympic medallist Saina played with good intensity but lost 17-21 14-21 to a superior Tzu Ying, who stood out with her court coverage and retrieving in the 36-minute match.
Coming into this match, Saina had lost her last nine matches against Tzu Ying, including three in the 2018 season.
Both Saina and PV Sindhu were assured of at least bronze medals after progressing to the semifinals.
Both Saina and Tzu Ying attacked each other’s backhand but it was the Chinese Taipei player who scored more points. She raced to a 4-1 lead in the opening game.
Saina changed her strategy a bit by hitting more deep returns and then looked for drop shots. It worked for her and soon it was 8-8.
Tzu Ying though kept spraying smashes on Saina’s backhand and took the first break with a narrow 11-10 lead.
The Chinese Taipei shuttler took four straight points to zoom to a 15-10 cushion, leaving Saina to play the catch up game.
Tactically sound and supremely fit Tzu Ying retrieved almost everything thrown at her.
At 19-16, Tzu Ying hit another smash on Saina’s backhand to grab her first game point and converted it when the Indian sailed over the baseline.
In the second game also, Saina was again playing the catch up game. Tzu Ying never looked like losing control though Saina tried hard to breach her rival’s defense.
Saina led for the first time in the match when Tzu Ying left a shuttle and it fell in at 12-12. A net chord also helped Saina take a point but Tzu Ying reclaimed lead on an unforced error from Saina.
Tzu Ying cruised to win from there with Saina sending a backhand wide.