Nehwal falls to Li at Indian Open

Defending champion Saina Nehwal is out of the India Open, beaten in the semi-finals by China’s Li Xuerui.

Playing in front of her home crowd, the 26-year-old went down 22-20, 17-21, 21-19 to her Chinese opponent after a hard-fought battle.

In a match characterised by a number of exciting and lengthy rallies, Li just managed to sneak the contest, winning the most important points during the 72-minute contest.

Nehwal started strongly, opening up an early 8-3 lead, but was powerless to prevent Li from turning the tables and snatching a 16-13 advantage. Nehwal again managed to grab the lead late in the game, but they kept trading blows and it was Li who finally emerged on top to go one game up.

Nehwal was dominant in the second game, however, leading it from start to finish, and had the momentum heading into the decider. She was ahead for most of the third game, at one point enjoying a 13-7 lead, but a couple of mishits would allow Li back into the contest.

Li gradually closed the gap before finally drawing level at 18-18, and the Chinese Olympic champion finished the strongest to claim the comeback win.

Awaiting Li in the final is Thai fourth seed Ratchanok Intanon, who was dominant throughout in her 21-8, 21-11 victory over South Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju.

The men’s final will see Japanese second seed Kento Momota take on fifth seed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.

Momota advanced when his semi-final opponent, Xue Song, retired hurt. Xue was a game up and leading in the second game when he was fored to call it a day.

Axelsen, meanwhile, had too much firepower for Son Wan ho, racing to a 21-11, 21-11 victory to advance to the final.