London: In a little over 12 hours, Saina Nehwal was back at Wembley Arena for her London Olympics semifinal match against top seed Chinese Wang Yihan on Friday morning. The Indian No. 4 lost 21-13, 21-13 much to the disappointment of the Indian fans.
Saina spoke in an exclusive chat.
Q: After a thrilling win the quarterfinals, your play in the semis was quite error-prone. Were you nervous?
A: I have played Wang Yihan many times before. I have played in Wembley before. Although I have never beaten Wang in my career, I was not under pressure at all. The Olympics are very different and everyone in the competition is a dangerous customer. I have said before that I don’t have an easy draw and all matches will be tough. Today was the most difficult match I played and unfortunately, I made several blunders. I got my length wrong and judged some poor returns as well.
Q: There were some long rallies and the Chinese won the big points. Did that make the difference?
A: Yes, of course. Winning long rallies gives you a lot of confidence. I used the high-toss service but Wang responded well. She knows my game as I much as I know hers, but today, she was making the lesser number of errors. Wang deserved to win.
Q: You have been in similar sudden-death situations before. How did you prepare yourself for this semifinal match?
A: Well, I didn’t get much time to prepare for this match. I finished late yesterday and never had time to think about the semifinal. When you are at crucial junctures in life, time seems to just fly. I get that feeling now. The Olympics is all about mental toughness. I think I wasn’t mentally strong enough to beat Wang. I was physically all right. But I did get tense as the match wore on. Wang was definitely more relaxed than I was.
Q: You have done better than Beijing. You now have a chance to win a bronze medal tomorrow (against world No. 2 Wang Xin of China).
A: Well, when I came here, my target was to win a gold medal. That has slipped out of my hands and I am quite disappointed. All these months, I was preparing for the best and I am really not thinking about the bronze medal. But the positive thing is I am still in the reckoning for a podium finish and I will do my best. I am going to play for India now and add to the tally.
Q: You have age on your side. May be four years down the line, you will emerge a stronger contender in the Rio Games.
A: Honestly, I haven’t thought about it. Four years is too long a time and if you see the age-group of the top players, they are in their early Twenties. So, it will depend on a lot of factors.