We finally reach the last round of one of the world’s most prestigious tournament after 5 days of spectacular badminton. Every match better than the previous, every point tougher than the previous. Fans of the sport were barely given time to breathe as thriller after thriller was played out at the Barclaycard Arena,Birmingham. Overcoming fierce, passionate competition, two best players each in the Women’s and Men’s singles categories have made it to the finals. Who holds the edge?What will make the difference?
Saina Nehwal has never lost to the World Champion, Carolina Marin in 3 meetings. She is in ominous form, dismantling all her opponents with surgical precision enroute to the title clash. The Indian is high on confidence and hasn’t put a foot wrong yet. History beckons her. There is a new-found grace to her game-play, a patience that she lacked earlier. The World No.3 is playing amazing deception shots and dribbling wonderfully at the net. In the quarter-final against Wang Yihan- a huge psychological barrier, it was clear she was learning quickly when she employed the body-smash repeatedly, a tactic that worked wonders. She is now close to playing a fearless brand of badminton, the kind Carolina plays.
The Spaniard is much more athletic than Saina, whose movement towards the net is still heavy. This presents itself as a weapon to Carolina, whose drops are pin-point accurate. The Hyderabadi’s slow movement compels her to play the shuttle late and the southpaw can immediately pounce on it and finish with her favourite shot-the smash. The 21 year old is very vocal, very aggressive. The kind of aggression barely seen in the women’s game. This tends to unnerve even the best, not letting them gain confidence at any point in the game. Carolina has had a great run too. Yet, Saina holds the edge, psychologically. She dominates their head to head, and will want to re-write history on Women’s Day, complete her dream.
Jan O Jorgensen loves a fight. And he comes out trumps most of the time. The Dane wears his heart on his sleeve and has the quality to match the aggression. At 6 feet 1 inch, his reach is incredible. He loves long rallies, tiring his opponent, setting up for his killer smash. His cross-court drops, played with unbelievably quick wrists are lethal. All England has been a dream tournament so far. Jorgensen hasn’t dropped a single game, even though he has been pushed to his limits. The first European to reach the final since Peter Gade in 2004, he would love to add this prestigious trophy to his kitty.
Chen Long encountered a 5 time World Champion and 2 time Olympic gold medallist in the semi-finals. He walked over Super Dan 21-13,21-12,unruffled. The World No.1 is on top of his game. A rusty start to the competition not withstanding, he has raised the bar very high. Chen doesn’t fear rallying around. He has the stamina and the patience to wait for Jorgensen to make a wrong move. The “new” Chen Long now has an unbreachable defense in his arsenal. Good enough to counter the Dane’s rockets. He holds the mental upper hand. He knows what it takes to win the “mini World Championships”. It is upto Jorgensen to upset him. Will he be able to do it?
In-form players. Hungry players. In the battle to crown the champions, sparks will fly.