A feisty Carolina Marin emerged victorious against a resilient Saina Nehwal as she won the Malaysia Masters semi-final clash in a straight game to end the Indian challenge in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

Facing each other at the Axiata Arena, Nehwal and Marin had a couple of things in common other than being Olympic medalists. Both the shuttlers have been world No.1 at their best times but recently the two have been fighting their own demons to come back into shape.

After recuperating from a horrific knee injury at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Nehwal gained her form back close to the 2018 Asian Games and fought her way back into the world’s top ten. Marin, on the other hand, had lost motivation post her Olympic triumph and struggled for almost one-and-half years to produce good results. It wasn’t until her third World Championship title last year that she regained her faded confidence.

Prior to the encounter in Malaysia, Nehwal had a 5-5 head to head record against the Rio Olympics gold medalist. However, Marin looked in a very fine form at the first World Tour Super 500 tournament of the season to take the game 21-16, 21-13 in 40 minutes against the Indian.

The first game was a see-saw affair as Nehwal started off on positive with a 4-1 lead but Marin comfortably won points to race away to a 9-5 lead. Nehwal then won four consecutive points to make it parity but the Spaniard against snatched an 11-9 lead before going into the mid-break.

The level-pegging continued in the second half as well up until the 28-year-old Indian started making unforced errors. Nehwal lost control of shuttle as Marin continued her attacking game to take a 1-0 lead in 20 minutes.

In the second game, the Spaniard asserted her dominance from the beginning and took a 6-1 lead. Nehwal failed to make the Southpaw run around and rather also failed to display her famous net game. Marin tamed the Indian with her pace and power to take an 11-6 advantage.

Nehwal continued to struggle to place the shuttle accurately and hit it on the net a couple of times. Marin kept on widening the lead and won eight match points. She saved one with a smash but it was too late by then to bridge the gap. Marin will now face defending champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the title clash on Sunday.


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