Everything to play for between China and India as they combat for the final medal

By Katie Garner

Players: Saina Nehwal (India)

Wang Xin (China)

The afternoon’s badminton session kicks off with the bronze medal match between India’s sporting sweetheart Saina Nehwal against Chinese Wang Xin. Previous head to heads show that Wang has a slight advantage winning 4 of the total 6 games the pair have played versus each other, and with China’s general dominance in this quick-paced racket sport, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about the victor.

The first game started very slowly, with both players seemingly testing the water on court, tentatively letting their shots roam around the court, checking out the conditions in the arena as well as each other. The play lacked aggression, although Nehwal soon had opportunities to show case her defensive play, as Wang got a sniff ahead at 7-6 and began to ramp up the smashes. What Wang really does well is her shot placement. They plop plumb on the line, and Nehwal doesn’t seem to have the confidence to make the snap decision to just go for it. She ends up leaving so many of these, providing easy points for Wang, when maybe if it’s too tight to call, she should just be having a go anyway, providing her a possible chance later in the rally.

Wang was definitely proving the most imaginative player during the first game, her reaction times faster, and she looks comfortable, simply waiting in the centre of the court to send smashes down on Nehwal. I did begin to get a bit dubious of Wang at one point, as one thing I hate about some badminton players is timewasting – a dirty tactic they use to put other players off their flow and muddle their mind sets to return the advantage to them.  Nehwal managed to win a point making it 7-14, so despite trailing by so many points, Wang instantly dropped to the floor to re-tie her shoelace, so Nehwal couldn’t serve straight away and continue her run. This happened again, when Nehwal once again managed to wriggle in a point at 13-18, as Wang insisted on scrubbing at an imaginary spot of sweat scattered on her side of the court, once again delaying serve.

As the first game began to come to a close, Nehwal woke up as Wang had six game points, so even though it may have been too little too late, at least Wang was working hard to gain the precious points to put her in the lead. Nehwal defended a couple of game points well, and then Wang hopped onto the floor. I must admit, at the first sign of this I was disapproving and scowling, as I believed this to just be a continuation of her timewasting from earlier. The coaches and trainers flooded over to her, packing plasters around the offending knee. Naturally, the first point when the game continued, Wang smashed it and won the first game.

However, I must admit I was wrong on this occasion, as when the second game started, after the very first point, Wang simply fell where she stood, unable to stand unaided. She had to concede the match, which was a great shame, meaning that Nehwal won the bronze medal by default. I think the reason I was so sceptical at first was simply because she didn’t seem to fall awkwardly or anything like that so I was unsure where the injury could possible come from. The only thing I can think of was that she must have landed from her smash with heavy pressure on her knee, as it was from that land that she began hopping off the court.

It’s a sad way to finish such an important match, as Wang was looking strong at the start, and I believe that she would have won if the game had continued as normal. Nehwal was playing well, but I think she was slightly too tentative against the Chinese player.