Saina, Srikanth enter China Open final
Fuzhou (China): India's Olympic bronze medal winning shuttler Saina Nehwal reached the women's singles final of the $700,000 China Open Super Series Premier here Saturday but the story of the day was Kidambi Srikanth, who reached his maiden Super Series summit clash where he will take on five-time World Champion Lin Dan Sunday.
While sixth seed Saina defeated Chinese Liu Xin 21-17, 21-17 in 47 minutes in the semi-final, men's singles World No.16 Srikanth advanced after German Marc Zwiebler retired from the last four contest with a right angle injury when the score read 21-11, 13-7 in favour of the Indian.
Srikanth couldn't suppress his excitement as he talked of his next opponent being one of his heroes and that it was a "dream" for him to be facing the legend on his home turf. The Indian has lost both his previous meetings against Lin in the past.
"It was a sad way to reach the final. It would've been nice if I would've beaten him in a full match. I'm feeling good. It's my first visit to China and I'm happy to reach the final," said the 21-year-old Pullela Gopichand protege.
"I've played Lin Dan twice. It's always special to play him. He's a very tricky player. I just want to give my 100 percent. It's always been a dream for me to play him in the final."
China have the opportunity of annexing four of the five available titles.
The exception is women's singles where Saina powered home to reach her second Super Series final of 2014, after clinching the Australian Open in June, and will face Japanese World No.35 Akane Yamaguchi, who upset South Korean fifth seed Yeon Ju Bae 21-10, 25-23 in the other semi-final to set up her first ever match against Saina.
The World No.5 Indian relished the fact that she had beaten three Chinese players on successive days to reach the title round.
"I never expected to beat three Chinese. I made some corrections since the Chinese players were catching me on some aspects of my game. I've been working on some drills with my coach. The approach has changed; beating three Chinese players in a row is not easy. I have also learnt a few new strokes. I never thought I'd learn them," said Saina.
The 24-year-old Hyderabadi took time to get into her rhythm and Liu looked better among the duo at the start, taking a 7-4 lead to pressurise the Indian briefly.
However, the 24-year-old Hyderabadi began to control proceedings and equalised at 11-all. Saina went on to earn points regularly despite tough competition from the Chinese World No.17. Liu conceded more points and taking advantage of that, Saina clinched the game in no time.
In the second game, it was a neck-and-neck contest till the 9-point mark before Saina bagged a 12-9 lead. Liu raised her game and managed to equalise at 14-all, also taking a two-point lead (16-14).
But Saina sent a flurry of cross-court smashes to grab a six-point lead and seal the game in her favour. With this win, Saina took a 2-0 lead in career meetings.