It was Beijing revisited at the London Olympics this morning as Wang Yihan guaranteed an all-Chinese Women’s Singles final.
The top seed’s defeat of Indian shuttler, Saina Nehwal, in the semi-finals ensured badminton powerhouse China will again savour gold and silver as the other semi was between Chinese teammates Li Xuerui and Wang Xin.
The likelihood of a medals clean sweep in this category was always on, given three of the four players left in the competition were the same nationality. The odd player out was Nehwal and the crowd was firmly behind her as she attempted to break China’s domination.
It was an electric atmosphere in Wembley Arena and, with action now down to just the centre court, the tension could be cut with a knife as both players entered the venue
The opening game saw both the 24-year-old and Nehwal trading points as both took time to settle and find their rhythm. Wang went on a run of four consecutive points when the game was tied 4-4 which proved to be the catalyst for her first-game victory. Nehwal, 22, struggled with her length throughout the game and even a run of four points on her own serve while trailing 18-9 was not enough to break Wang Yihan’s stranglehold as the Chinese took the game 21-13.
The Chinese world champion, with two-time Olympic gold medallist Zhang Ning in her corner, led 6-2 in the second game. Nehwal’s never-say-die attitude kept the Indian in touch and, as she led 12-11, some felt she might still have a chance to make the Olympic final.
Wang Yihan, sensing the momentum was starting to swing, was forced to find another gear which she duly did. The Chinese world No. 1 blew Nehwal off the court in the second half of the game, allowing her opponent a solitary point as she booked her final spot with a 21-13 win in the second game.
“My main strength is my commitment to the game,” said a philosophical Wang Yihan. “I gave all I had today and it does not matter to me who I play in the final.”
Nehwal, obviously disappointed by her performance, rued her ability to control the length as she struggled with the drift.
“Today I just did not find my rhythm which I can probably say was something to do with the quality of play from Wang Yihan. I struggled to find my length to the baseline which affected my confidence.”
The second all-Chinese semi-final between Li Xuerui and Wang Xin looked close on paper. The match itself was played in true Olympic spirit but it was Li Xuerui who prevailed in straight games 22-20 21-18; setting up a gold medal match between arguably the best two women’s singles players of the past 12 months.
“I am so happy to be in the Olympic final after the coaches had faith to pick me to come here. I have never beaten Wang Xin before and now I look forward to the final and taking on Wang Yihan,” commented the beaming Li.
Wang Xin has the consolation of a bronze match against Nehwal as China strive to go one better than four years ago and achieve a clean sweep in Women’s Singles.