NEW DELHI (TIP): ‘Raising the bar’ has been Saina Nehwal’s calling card for years. The Hyderabadi diehard and her team of gutsy shuttlers made Uber Cup history on May 22, taking India into the semifinals for the first time in modern era of the tournament with a 3-0 win over Indonesia. India now face Japan – who beat Denmark – in the semifinals to be played at the Siri Fort Complex on Friday.
The Indian captain paved the way for her team’s triumph, winning the first match against Lindaweni Fanetri. Her understudy , 18-year-old PV Sindhu, survived a scare and an attack of nerves to get the better of Bellartrix Manuputty to make it 2-0. The pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa then gave the finishing touches to a campaign which will be remembered for years.
Saina came to know about her QF opponents well past midnight on Wednesday. Indonesia and its top singles player Fanetri were not going to give the Indian captain a sleepless night. “Following the victory over Ratchanok Intanon (World No. 4 from Thailand), there was nothing much to think about,” a confident Saina said moments after knocking out Fanetri 21-17, 21-10. The vociferous, partisan crowd realized that history was being created when Sindhu saved two match points in the third game to finally emerge bruised but not beaten.
She got past Bellartrix Manuputty (world No. 24) 21-16, 10-21, 25-23. Jwala and Ashwini (ranked 36th) punched much above their weights against the ninth ranked Indonesian pair of Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari to assure India at least a bronze with their 21-18, 21-18 win. Fanetri, ranked 23rd, was off the blocks faster than Saina expected and opened up an eight-point (15-7) lead in the first game.
The drift was working to Saina’s disadvantage as she failed to control the backline. A couple of simple smashes, which should have been put away , were buried into the net. “I kept my focus and went for the rallies. At one point I stopped looking at the score,” said Saina. She did much more. Reading Fanetri’s game rather astutely , Saina kept spreading the bird all across the court. Fanetri was running ragged. “I could feel she was getting tired,” Saina said.
In the second singles, Sindhu, untroubled till the quarters, suddenly started erring on the side of caution. Winning the first game, she went into a shell to lose the second against Manuputty , playing with a heavily strapped knee. In the third, when aggression was supposed to be the key word, Sindhu chose to wait for her opponent to make errors and clinched the battle of nerves to make it a sweet success story.