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Luck, guts see Saina through

Shenzhen: Saina Nehwal looks all set to cap a remarkable year on a high as the ace Indian shuttler reached the semi-finals of the BWF World Super Series Finals with a fine straight-game win over Juliane Schenk of Germany, here on Friday.

Saina had her back against the wall after two back-to-back losses in Group ‘B’ but the London Olympics bronze medallist made a remarkable comeback and put herself back into the reckoning for her fifth Super Series title this year with a 21-7, 21-18 victory over Schenk in 37 minutes.

Saina was ahead 9-2 just five minutes into the match and swelled her lead to 15-7 as Schenk looked a pale shadow of herself in the opening game.

Saina did not give her opponent any chance to claw her way back into the match and reeled off another six points to pocket the first game with relative ease.

In the next game, Schenk looked a better player and used her on-court experience to perfection to take a 6-3 lead. However, her three-point lead was short-lived as Saina used her crosscourt smashes to perfection to reduce the deficit.

Saina, however, managed to break the deadlock and surged ahead to 14-12 in the second game. But, the world No. 4 Schenk made a spirited comeback against her old nemesis and won some crucial points to reduce the lead to 16-18.

Just when it looked like that the match will head to the decider, Saina reeled off five consecutive points to win the battle of survival.

In the semis, the fourth-seeded Saina will lock horns with the top seed, China’s Li Xuerui, who defeated Korea’s Ji Hyun Sung 21-9, 21-12 in her final Group ‘A’ match.

Saina also had luck riding in her favour coming into this game against Schenk. The only hope for the Indian was if Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand beat Tine Baun and Saina put it across the German in their respective Group B matches.

Friday’s results meant Ratchanok, who defeated Baun 21-15 21-14, topped the group and qualified for the semis with a better game average — difference between total number of games won and lost — and Saina as the second best. (agencies)