Syed Modi International 2018: Saina Nehwal, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty lose finals in straight games
It was heartbreak for Saina Nehwal, who couldn't put enough pressure on Han, a 2017 world junior championship silver medallist, losing 18-21, 8-21
Lucknow: Former champion Saina Nehwal failed to produce her best, losing in straight games to young Han Yue of China in a one-sided women's singles final at the Syed Modi International World Tour Super 300 on Sunday.
Commonwealth Games silver medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty also went down in straight games against second seeds Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto of Indonesia to settle for the runners-up prize in the men's doubles competition.
It was heartbreak for Saina, who couldn't put enough pressure on Han, a 2017 world junior championship silver medallist, losing 18-21, 8-21 in a 34-minute final to settle for another runners-up finish and pocket a cheque of $5,700.
Saina, who won a gold and a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, had ended second best at the Indonesia Masters in January and Denmark Open in October this year. In the men's doubles, Satwik and Chirag squandered an 18-14 lead in the second game to lose 11-21 20-22 to world number 7 Alfian and Ardianto in a 38-minute match.
In the women's singles final, the youngster from China, who had defeated former Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the semifinals, was a cut above the Indian, who struggled with her precision. In the first game, Saina recovered from an early 0-2 deficit to lead 6-5. A net error and a weak return by Saina saw Han lead 8-6.
The Indian then reeled off four points, mixing smashes with angled returns, to move to 10-8 and then grabbed an 11-9 lead when the Chinese shuttler went wide. Han pocketed three points but Saina again unleashed a down-the-line smash to claw back at 12-12 and then lead 14-12 with her Chinese opponent going wide twice.
Saina kept using her smashes and angled returns to good effect, leading 17-12 at one stage. Two miscued shots from Saina helped Han make it 15-17. The Indian smashed one to the net and also hit long and failed to reach a shot at the forecourt as Han led 19-18.
Han grabbed two game points when Saina left one at the backcourt and claimed the bragging rights when the Indian pushed one wide.
After a pep talk by would-be-husband Parupalli Kashyap, Saina returned to the court for the second game, which saw both the shuttlers gaining points from each other's unforced errors to be tied 3-3.
Saina struggled with her accuracy even as Han grew in confidence, reaching 10-6 when the Indian found the net and then hit wide. Another frustrated return from Saina gave Han a 11-6 advantage at the interval.
After the breather, Saina tried to match her younger opponent in the long rallies but Han produced some precise cross court smashes and returns to keep her nose ahead. Saina paid the price of leaving the shuttle too short as Han punished them, moving to 16-8 at one stage.
Han kept hitting some quality strokes, while Saina struggled. The result was Han jumped to a 20-8 lead when Saina hit long. When the Indian again erred with her length, the Chinese sealed her maiden win.
Axelsen returned a first positive test after beating Finn Kalle Koljonen in the semi-finals on Saturday and must isolate in Kiev. He was to face fellow Dane Anders Antonsen, who claimed his first European title with a walkover.
Prakash Padukone is likely to be discharged later this week.
The tournament is scheduled to be held from 11-16 May, but with Spain announcing a 10-day mandatory quarantine period on travellers from India, it will not be possible for the players to compete in the event.