Birmingham: After her dreams of winning the All England badminton championship ended in agony with a defeat in the final, a crestfallen Saina Nehwal said it was her lack of focus and nervousness which led to her loss.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina let go of a huge opportunity to script history as she squandered an opening game lead to go down 21-16, 14-21, 7-21 to the reigning world champion Carolina Marin of Spain in the women’s singles final.
“I just lost focus and began hurrying, which was not right,” Nehwal said after the match. “Playing against top players anything can happen at any stage, and you can always get nervous at some point in time. That’s what happened here,” she added.
It was a case of so near yet so far as the World No. 3 Indian failed to emulate her long-time coach Pullela Gopichand (2001) and legendary Prakash Padukone (1980), who had won the prestigious title in the past.
Saina, who has been competing at the All England since 2007, had never lost to Carolina and looked on course for an encore before the World No. 6 Spaniard scripted a remarkable comeback in the second game to put paid to the Indian’s hopes at the Barclaycard Arena.
“This is quite amazing for me. I lost to her every time before, so to beat her like this, and in this tournament, is very special indeed,” said Marin.
After dominating the opening game completely, Saina was leading 11-9 in the second set but lost steam after the break, as Carolina fought back brilliantly and bagged eight out of the last nine points.
In the decider, Carolina stamped her authority with her sharp smashes and better movement to completely make it a one-sided contest as Saina could only watch as her hopes went up in smoke.
Marin said, “At 9-11 in the second I heard my coach calling to me. I stuck to my game plan and tried to make less mistakes. I could feel it was beginning to work but then it started working very quickly.”