Saina Nehwal looks set to cap a remarkable year on a high. The ace Indian shuttler entered the semi-finals of the BWF World Super Series Finals with a fine straight-game win over Juliane Schenk of Germany,in Shenzhen, China, on Friday.
Saina had her back against the wall after two back-to-back defeats in Group 'B', but the London Olympics bronze-medallist made a remarkable comeback and got back in the reckoning for her fifth Super Series title this year with a 21-7, 21-18 victory in 37 minutes.
The World No 3 made a resounding start, reeling off six straight points with a mix of her trademark crosscourt smashes and drop shots to which Schenk had no response.
Saina was ahead 9-2 just five minutes into the match and swelled her lead to 15-7 as Schenk looked a pale shadow of herself in the opening game. She did not give her opponent any chance to claw her way back into the match and reeled off another six points to pocket the first game, which saw he hit six smash winners against three by the German.
In the next game, Schenk looked the better player as she led 6-3. However, her three-point lead was short-lived as Saina reduced the deficit and caught up at 11-all.
Saina surged ahead to 14-12. But, World No. 4 Schenk made a spirited
comeback against her old nemesis and won some crucial points to reduce the lead to 16-18.
Just when it looked like that the match will head to the decider, Saina reeled off five consecutive points to win the battle of survival and booked a place in the last-four.
The second game saw Saina hitting 10 smash winners as compared to Schenk's six.
In the semis of the US $500,000 prestigious year-ending event, the fourth seeded Saina will lock horns with the top seed, China's Xuerui Li, who defeated Korea's Ji Hyun Sung 21-9, 21-12 in her final Group 'A' match.
This will be Saina's second successive semi-final appearance in the tournament. She lost to then World No.1 Wang Yihan in the final last year.
Saina also had luck riding in her favour coming into this game against Schenk. The only hope for the Indian was if Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand beat Tine Baun and Saina put it across the German in their respective Group B match.
Today's results meant Ratchanok, who defeated Baun 21-15, 21-14, topped the group and qualified for the semis with a better game average (difference between total number of games won and lost) and Saina was second best.