In one of the biggest upsets for the Indian Olympic contingent, medal hope Saina Nehwal on Sunday crashed out of the women’s singles event after suffering a defeat against Maria Ulitina of Ukraine in her second Group G match.
The London Olympics bronze medallist and world no. 5 lost 18-21 19-21 to World No. 61 Maria in a match that lasted 39 minutes.
The Indian star, a former world no. 1, had won the opening match against Brazil’s Vicente Lohaynny on August 11.
The Ukraine player posed a lot of questions as Saina missed a few shots in the forecourt and back. The Indian, however, managed to enter the short break 11-9 in front with a drop which Maria could not return from the forecourt.
With Saina continuing to be sluggish, Maria reached 19-17 and then reached game point with a cross court round-the-head smash.
The Indian then hit wide to allow Maria earn the bragging rights after clinching the opening game.
In the second game, Maria used her height to good use as she played some sharp and stiff smashes and half smashes which Saina failed to negotiate. The Indian managed to stay ahead with a slender 11-10 lead at the break.
But Maria dominated the pace of the rallies even as Saina seemed restricted in her movement as the Ukraine player led 14-13.
The script didn’t change much after that as Maria managed to reach match point with a cross court smash and then entered the knockout pre-quarter final round with a lucky net chord.
After a shocking group league exit from the Rio Olympics, Saina Nehwal cited an inflammation in her right knee as the reason which hampered her on—court movement.
World No 5 lost her second group league encounter 18—21, 19—21 to World No 61 Ukraine’s Maria Ulitina to crash out of the competition.
“I had a knee pain and could not give my best. It was heavily strapped, and I tried my best. My movements were not smooth and were painful. It’s heartbreaking loss. I also feel very bad about it,” Saina said.
The injury according to her happened during training before the Olympics and it got worse during the match.
“It happened just before the Olympics about one and half weeks back. It happened during training and got aggravated after coming here,” she said.
Saina agreed that she was not able to move well but credited her opponent for playing well.
“She played better but I was not able to move on the court. I tried for improvement but was not successful.”