Steely Saina reaches French Open finals

Paris: London Olympics bronze medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal stamped her authority to storm into the final of the French Super Series with a classy 21-19 21-8 victory over German Juliane Schenk in the semifinals of the women's singles here on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Indian, who was meeting Juliane for the second time in two weeks, outclassed the German 21-19 21-8 in a 36-minute match, which saw some brilliant badminton. She will take on Minatsu Mitani of Japan in the finals today.

Saina, who had defeated Juliane in the finals of the Denmark Open last week in Odense, showed once again why she is revered as one of the best badminton player in the world as she hardly put a foot wrong on Saturday.

The world number three was erratic initially and conceded a narrow 3-1 lead. But she soon bought up her down the line smashes and tosses and engaged Juliane in long rallies to make it 6-6.

Juliane tried to bring Saina to the nets and exerted herself to get behind the shuttles and moved into the break with a two-point cushion with the help of two cross-court smashes.

After the breather, the German moved to a 15-10 lead with a couple of points at the nets and back of the court. Juliane was brilliant in her returns but she failed to judge the shuttle speed and kept hitting long to allow Saina claw back at 16-16.

There a brief interruption after Juliane was allowed to test the shuttle speed following her repeated requests to the chair umpire and on resumption, she immediately gathered three quick points to move to 19-16.

A delightful net stroke helped Saina to make it 17-19 and then what followed was a scintillating rally where Juliane lost her racquet while returing a shot to allow the Indian gather another point.

Saina then closed the deficit when Juliane's return went to the net and then stamped her brilliance with two perfect net shots to nose ahead.

The first game loss broke Juliane's spirit as she was visibly frustrated and it affected her game. Saina, on the other hand, only grew in confidence to easily move into the break with a huge eight stroke lead.

In a repeat of their Denmark Open final encounter, Juliane's game just worsened as Saina stole the show with her calm demeanour and steely resolve to outmaneuver her opponent, moving to 14-4.

A couple of misjudgement fetched Juliane two points but Saina once again took control of the match and easily moved to the match point and sealed her place in the final when the German hit wide.

In the quarterfinal, top seed Saina had to dig into her reservoir of experience to see off Ratchanok Intanon 22-20 22-20 in a 42-minute clash during which she was given some anxious moments by the 17-year-old Thai, who is ranked 10th in the international list and seeded seventh in the event.

In Friday's match, Saina started well, taking an 11-7 lead in the first game but Intanon came back strongly to make it 20-20 before the Indian managed to clinch it with her eighth trademark smash of the game.

The second game followed a similar script as Intanon tested Saina with her fine strokeplay. But the 22-year-old Hyderabadi drew from experience to come out triumphant and inch closer to her third Super Series title this year.