India’s star shuttler Saina Nehwal on Thursday had a day to forget at the French Open World Superseries as she suffered a loss in the second round. The bronze medallist at the London Olympics lost in straight sets (9-21, 21-23) to Japanese fifth seed Akane Yamaguchi in Paris at the $325,000 tournament. The match was over in 39 minutes. This was Saina’s third loss to Yamaguchi in four meetings. Saina Nehwal is currently ranked number 11 in the world. The Japanese shuttler absolutely dominated Nehwal in the first set, gaining a 13-7 lead and then winning it 21-9.
Saina, however, fought valiantly in the second game. Yamaguchi started again strongly, holding a 7-3 lead. Saina kept trailing before managing to equalise at the 19-point mark before taking a 20-19 lead. However, the 2017 Asian Championships silver medallist quickly hit back and pulled level at the 20-point mark and took a 21-20 lead. Saina once again kept herself in the reckoning, equalising at 21-21. But Yamaguchi stepped up her game to seal it 23-21.
Nehwal has had a rough year and a half, mostly plagued by injuries. She had a heartbreaking end to the journey at the Rio Olympics 2016 when she had to be taken to a hospital for a major knee surgery, one that she wasn’t sure she’d come back from. But the champion that Saina is, she did.
“I am happy with my performance. Being unseeded and reaching the semis and playing with some of the best players. I gave her (Okuhara) a tough time and maybe I could have won, but it was not my day. This was one of the few semi-finals I played this year, so I am happy,” she had said after her return and win over Kirsty Gilmour.