Stade Coubertin is witnessing a massacre. Saina Nehwal is already back at the Ibis Hotel wondering where did she go so horribly wrong.
Others who would be doing the same are world number one Malaysia’s Chong Wei Lei, China’s ‘Super Dan’ Lin Dan, the three times world champion and Olympic champion lost to a 13th seed from South Korea, Sung Hwang Park.
And yesterday the women’s top seed China’s Wang Yihan was also sent packing. As Russia’s Ella Diehl said, “This stadium is a graveyard for top seeds.”
Nehwal had not witnessed the defeat of men’s top seed Chong Wei Lei on the same court, minutes before her match began against Shixian Wang.
The Chinese sixth seed was in a hurry. Within minutes she was off to a flyer leading 5-1. Nehwal was struggling, quite clearly. Her shots didn’t have the depth; her drop shots, her main weapon, didn’t have the measure of the court; even her tosses seemed half-hearted.
Top players playing day in day out sense the opposition’s anxiety. Shixian saw it as well. Nehwal smiled too much today. When ever she judged a line call wrong, she smiled at the line judges and pleaded with coach Gopichand. If she missed a shot, she smiled at Shixian as if saying – “It’s not my day.”
Shixian kept reeling in the points and finished the first game at 21-8. Embarrassing for a world number two!
“There was nothing I could do,” said Nehwal. “I just wasn’t moving. I rely on footwork and it seemed that I couldn’t cover the court.”
The second game was a little better. Shixian wasn’t in top form either; a sign of how badly Nehwal played today. Every champion is given an off day. But today, there were no fight backs; no sign of trying to do something different; no changing of racquets; nothing.
If the crowds switched to watching the Lin Dan-Sung Hwan Park match, you couldn’t have faulted them. Nehwal’s first successful drop shot came at 9-14 and her first smash at 12-16 in the second game. It was like going off the blocks after the runners had already crossed the finish line. Shixian won the second game and the match at 21-14.
“Yes, I am disappointed,” she said. “I didn’t expect to play this badly. I had never played her. But then the same goes for her too. I will try and understand this defeat. But I will be back for the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.”
A dream run that started at the Indian Open, Singapore Super Series and Indonesia Super Series has finally ended in Paris.