Syed Modi International 2018: Saina Nehwal a tougher opponent than Li Xuerui, says Han Yue after winning maiden title

Lucknow: China’s Han Yue made it look so easy. To brush aside two former World No 1s – Saina Nehwal and Li Xuerui – in a space of two days needed a courageous display. And the 19-year-old didn’t even flinch as she defied age to claim her first World Tour title.

It took Han just 34 minutes to find chinks in Saina’s armour and register a famous 21-18, 21-8 victory in front of the boisterous crowd in Lucknow. The young Chinese had a difficult start to the final against Saina, but she smothered the Indian ace in the second game to cause an upset.

In the two matches she played at the BBDA stadium, Han said she found Saina more threatening than her compatriot Li. “I had to struggle a lot to make a comeback in the first game as Saina pushed me behind. She is good player, while the match against Li Xuerui wasn’t that difficult,” said Han after the match.

File image of Han Yue. AFP

File image of Han Yue. AFP

Despite dismantling the three-time winner in straight games, Han found it difficult to make Saina work on the court. “The game against Saina was different. If Li’s attack is good, then Saina is more of a complete player,” Han added.

Han was stretched to three games against Li in the semi-finals on Saturday, however, it was pretty evident that her opponent Li lacked the cutting edge. A series of errors from Han at the net allowed Li to make a comeback. But, the young Chinese tormented her compatriot to enter the final.

Meanwhile, Han took a while to get into the groove, as she found herself trailing for the major part of the opening exchanges. Saina had the momentum and led 18-14 only to squander it later on. Once the Chinese started to attack Saina’s deep backhand corner, there was no turning back from there. The Fujian-native kept on bludgeoning crosscourt smashes to leave Saina stranded in the second game. Such was the 19-year-old shuttler’s dominance in the final.

Han’s reaction to the winning point was so unusual and dramatic too. Throughout the tournament, the teenager barely made a winning gesture but after taming the three-time champion in her own den, she ran towards her coach like a kid to celebrate her win. She just couldn’t believe what she had achieved.

Han later said that she sees this victory as a stepping-stone to further success on the World Tour circuit next year. “There is just no stopping from here and would continue to train hard for the coming games. I’ve got a long way to go,” she concluded.

In the end, Han’s success showed that China’s depth is getting stronger as ever with Chen Yufei, He Bingjiao and Gao Fangjie already making waves in the women’s singles scene.

For Saina though, luck wasn’t on her side in Lucknow.

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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2018 20:40:00 IST

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