Former champion Saina Nehwal lost 18-21, 8-21 to Han Yue of China in the women’s singles final of the Syed Modi International World Tour Super 300 on Sunday, 25 November.
It was heartbreak for Saina, who couldn't put enough pressure on Han, a 2017 world junior championship silver medallist, losing 18-21 8-21 in a 34-minute final to settle for another runners-up finish and pocket a cheque of USD 5,700. The London Olympic bronze medallist is yet to secure her maiden BWF title of this season.
Saina, who won a gold and a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, had ended second best at the Indonesia Masters in January and Denmark Open in October this year.
Commonwealth Games silver medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty also went down in straight games against second seeds Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto of Indonesia to settle for the runners-up prize in the men's doubles competition.
The Indian men's doubles pair of Satwik and Chirag squandered a 18-14 lead in the second game to lose 11-21 20-22 to world number 7 Alfian and Ardianto in a match that lasted 38-minutes
In the women's singles final, the youngster from China, who had defeated former Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the semifinals, was a cut above the Indian, who struggled with her precision.
In the first game, Saina recovered from an early 0-2 deficit to lead 6-5. A net error and a weak return by Saina saw Han lead 8-6. The Indian then reeled off four points, mixing smashes with angled returns, to move to 10-8 and then grabbed a 11-9 lead when the Chinese went wide.
Han pocketed three points but Saina again unleashed a down-the-line smash to claw back at 12-12 and then lead 14-12 with the Chinese going wide twice. Saina kept using her smashes and angled returns to good effect, leading 17-12 at one stage.
Two miscued shots from Saina helped Han make it 15-17. The Indian smashed one to the net and also hit long and failed to reach a shot at the forecourt as Han led 19-18. Han grabbed two game points when Saina left one at the back court and claimed the bragging rights when the Indian pushed one wide.
After a pep talk by to-be-husband P Kashyap, Saina returned to the court for the second game, which saw both the shuttlers gaining points from each other's unforced errors to be tied 3-3.
Saina struggled with her accuracy even as Han grew in confidence, reaching 10-6 when the Indian found the net and then hit wide. Another frustrated return from Saina gave Han a 11-6 advantage at the interval.
After the breather, Saina tried to match her younger opponent in the long rallies but Han produced some precise cross court smashes and returns to keep her nose ahead. Saina paid the price of leaving the shuttle too short as Han punished them, moving to 16-8 at one stage.
Han kept hitting some quality strokes, while Saina struggled. The result was Han jumped to a 20-8 lead when Saina hit long. When the Indian again erred with her length, the Chinese sealed her maiden win.