aina Nehwal gave her all before losing steam as the ace Indian shuttler yet again succumbed to nemesis and world no.1 Tai Tzu Ying to settle for a runner-up finish at the Denmark Open here on Sunday. In an exciting but energy-sapping 52-minute final, Saina lost 13-21 21-13 6-21 to the superior Chinese Taipei rival. Tzu Ying claimed the Denmark Open title after a gap of two years. She had last won the tournament in 2016. The win also bettered Tzu Ying head-to-head record against Saina to 13-5. In fact, this was Saina’s fifth straight defeat against Tzu Ying this year. The Indian had come out second best four times earlier this year — Indonesia Masters, All England Championships, Badminton Asia Championships and in the Jakarta Asian Games.
The top seed Taipei player meant business from the start as she dictated the pace in the first game to race to a 6-1 lead. Saina looked indecisive but debatable poor line calls also cost her dearly. Tzu Ying on the other hand, was at her clinical best as she engaged Saina in long rallies to tire her out.
The Chinese Taipei shuttler never let the Indian opponent take the lead even once in the opening game as she led 11-6 and continued to maintain the upper hand. She pocketed the first game in a mere 15 minutes. But the world no. 10 Indian, who was unseeded here, was in no mood to give up without a fight and came out all guns blazing in the second game. Saina’s ploy to adopt an attacking approach worked wonders as she completely dominated the second game.
Inspiration and tips from her fiancee Parupalli Kashyap at the end of the first game also motivated Saina who was at her fiery best in the second game. Riding on her booming cross-court smashes and some indecision from Tzu Ying, Saina led 11-5 at the break and then went on to win the game 21-13 to draw parity.
But the Indian failed to continue with the momentum in the decider as her legs gave up in the wake of an intense match. Tzu Ying curtailed her mistakes and once again engaged Saina in long rallies which drained out the Indian. Unforced errors returned to haunt Saina in the third game as she was guilty of finding the net and hitting wide on numerous occasions. Once Tzu Ying took a seven-point lead at 9-2 it was always going to be difficult for Saina to comeback.