Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth crashed out of the All England Championship to bring an end to the Indian challenge at the USD 1 million tournament in Birmingham on Friday. While Saina couldn’t find answers to the deceptive strokeplay of her nemesis Tai Tzu-Ying, suffering a 15-21 19-21 loss to the World No 1 Taiwanese in the quarterfinals, former No 1 Srikanth went down 12-21 16-21 to the current men’s world no 1 Kento Momota later in the day.
Saina is now 5-15 in head-to-head career record with Tzu-Ying and it was her 13th straight defeat against the Taiwanese, who has not lost to the Indian since 2015. “I had my chances but I got tied up in the last two points,” said the 28-year-old from Hyderabad, a 2015 finalist.
“I’m happy that I’m getting closer to the top players. I’ve not been sleeping because of the pain I’ve been having in my stomach (due to diarrhea), but I’m really happy that I could play two matches here.”
Srikanth, who had a title-less run last season after the high of winning four tournaments in an incredible 2017, suffered his sixth straight loss to the Japanese. In the first game, Momota broke off from 9-9 to grab 10 game points. Srikanth saved two before a cross-court return sealed it for the Japanese.
In the second game, Momota surged ahead from 3-3 to grab an 11-4 at the break and grabbed eight match points. The Indian saved four match points before losing the match.
Earlier, Tzu-Ying, who had retired at the Hong Kong Open last year due to a waist injury, seemed to have recovered well as her arsenal of strokes was in full display. The Taiwanese rushed to an 11-3 lead. Saina produced two superb drops and won nine of the next 12 points to narrow the equation to 12-14.
Tzu-Ying then came out with a flurry of her magical strokes to move to 20-13 and sealed it comfortably.
In the second game, Saina enjoyed a five-point cushion at 8-3 in the second game. Some exceptional strokes helped the Taiwanese to gather a few points but Saina ensured an 11-8 advantage at the interval.
The Indian tried to keep Tzu-Ying at the backline with her deep tosses but fatigue, perhaps due to the bout of diarrhea, affected her.
Tzu-Ying moved ahead of the Indian to 17-15. Saina made it 19-19 with a successful line call. But two precise returns on the Indian’s backhand ended the match in the Taiwanese favour.