Friday, August 03, 2012

London Olympics: Saina Nehwal becomes first Indian shuttler to reach semi-finals

You could have confused the Wembley badminton hall to be in India. The tricolour was a prized possession as spectators waved it in the stands and chanted "Sainaaa, Sainaaa..."
And the diva of Indian badminton did everything to bring cheer as she cranked up her game like a true champion to dump Tine Baun 21-15, 22-20 and enter the women's singles semi-final.
As the cherubic lass leapt and smashed from the back court for a winner,Saina was in a state of joy as she shouted, then hit the deck and slapped both her palms on the court.
Saina had been well in control of her emotions right through the 29-minute high voltage contest but the second game was a cliff-hanger.
With the tall Baun leading by three game points, Saina needs to play something special. And what a way she responded, keeping her focus intact and covering the court with grace.
It was Saina' s poise and killer instinct which enabled her shut out Baun in front of packed stands where a huge number of Indians had bought tickets for the afternoon session.
The Saina Nehwal of Beijing 2008 and the Saina of London 2012 are two different players. If she was then a player who was learning what it is to compete at the highest level against tough opponents, now she is feared.
Her hair short and neat, hair clips holding it back in place even as she jumped, dived and retrieved the shuttle, everything was neat about Saina, as she ran through the first game in just 16 minutes.
Those reaching the Wembley arena late had missed valuable action as Saina was in 'the zone'. For her part, Baun was back-pedalling in the contest, sweating and unable to force the pace.
The way Saina played today was so different from previous big matches at the All England championship, Asian Games and world championship.
Having been given the tag of choker on big stage, Saina needed to tell the world she had changed her approach.


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