Saina Nehwal squandered four match points in her singles match as a young Indian women team bowed out of the Uber Cup Final after being hammered 0-5 by five-time champions Japan in a group A match, in Bangkok on Wednesday.
India had won two bronze medals in the last edition but the team without top shuttlers such as P V Sindhu and Ashwini Ponnappa, was no match for the top seeds.
Saina seemed extremely fit and dominated the match before a series of unforced errors in the fag end saw her blow away four match points to lose 19-21 21-9-20-22 to world No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi in the opening match.
Doubles pair of Sanyogita Ghorpade and Prajakta Sawant then lost 15-21 6-21 to world no 4 Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo.
Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka had the tall task of taming world champion Nozomi Okuhara but the young shuttler lost 10-21 13-21 in just 26 minutes as Japan took the match away from India.
In the fourth match, Vaishnavi Bhale and Meghana Jakkampudi went down 8-21 17-21, while Aruna Prabhudesai lost 12-21 7-21 to end the proceedings.
Indian women’s team had lost to Canada 1-4 but they won 5-0 against Australia in group A.
In the opening match, Saina made a determined effort but the errors in the fag end proved costly.
In the first game, both the players probed the four corners of the court with their cross court returns. The drift also posed problems but Yamaguchi showed better control to zoom to a 11-7 lead at the break.
Saina showed tremendous grit to fight back from 9-16 down to narrow the difference but lost the game 19-21. She got a few points with her measured returns at the back line. However, a deceptive return of serve sealed it for the Japanese in the end.
In the second game, Saina continued with the momentum from the last game to move to a 11-6 lead. The Indian’s good shot selection helped her construct the rallies and cover the court well. Such was her dominance that the Japanese could only add three more points after the break. In the end it was another cross court smash that left Yamaguchi stranded and took the match to the decider.
Saina showed good tactical acumen and backed it up with her strokes to lead 9-5 but Yamaguchi soon made it 8-10. A nicely-placed shot gave her the lead at the interval.
Saina blunted Yamaguchi’s strokes with her great defence to move to 15-11. She played some superb late net strokes to bamboozle the Japanese. Yamaguchi managed to make it 16-18 before a long shot and an error at the net from Yamaguchi gave match points to Saina.
The Japanese saved four match points after the Indian sent the shuttle wide. Another long shot by Saina gave match point to Yamaguchi as she sealed it with a smash.