It is a little disappointing for everybody that Saina Nehwal lost in the semifinal of the All England Championships. But she is young and has to move on.
I noticed a couple of things that led to the loss. That her quarterfinal match was a long one (73-minute match) may have really slowed Saina down. Moreover, she has been out of competition for six weeks. When you play at the highest level, you need a little match practice.
Perhaps, the ideal preparation for her would have been to participate in the German Open (the previous week) and then go to All England. If you look at it, in the last European circuit, she went straight to All England after a 5-6 week break and lost in the quarterfinal. After the All England, she peaks in the Swiss Open. At this level, you need more match practice.
You can also lose when you are under pressure. But her mental strength normally carries her through. Though Ratchanok is not a very powerful girl, her strokes were very deceptive. If Saina was moving well on the court, she could retrieve well. Saina is vulnerable when the rival is deceptive and the vulnerability comes when you are not moving well on the court. Though Saina was putting in good rallies in the end, it was a little too late.
Finally, I have noticed that Saina has put on a little weight in the hip area. Maybe her knee has been troubling her and she must have been doing a lot of weight training to strengthen her quadriceps and hamstring. It takes time to get going when you do weight training. Everyone thinks that if the Chinese are not there, Saina will win. But it is not easy. Other countries, especially Japan and Thailand, are doing well these days.
(Former chief national coach U Vimal Kumar spoke with G Krishnan after Saturday’s semifinal)