London, Aug 4: India's Saina Nehwal won the bronze medal in women's singles badminton at the London Olympics 2012, to create history at the Wembley Arena on Saturday. Saina was declared winner in her match against China's Wang Xin after the latter retired injured after winning the first game 21-18 and was leading 1-0 in the second.
It was a historic moment for Saina as she has become only the second Indian woman to win an Olympics medal. Karnam Malleshwari (weightlifting) had won a bronze medal in Sydney 2000.
"I still can't believe the match is over and I won a medal. In badminton, I never believed that India could win a medal because the competition is so tough. It is a dream come true for me. I had never won a match like this before. May be, the medal was written for me. I have always wanted an Olympic medal. I always wanted to see India's national flag going up at the podium," the 22-year-old from Hyderabad, said.
"I had trained hard and there was a lot of expectation. I initially thought that she was just taking rest as she was tiring, but then I realised she was injured. It's sad that she got injured, but I was confident of beating her as I was coming into rhythm," she added.
"Today my strategy was to engage her in long rallies and it did work to some extent. Yesterday also we had the same strategy, but it did not work. I should have tried something else and played my own game instead of trying to match her," Saina explained.
The world number two, Xin hurt her left knee when the score was 20-18 in the first game. The doctors attended to her and strapped her knee and resumed play to take the first game. But in the second, after one point 1-0, she seemed to be in pain and decided soon to withdraw.
This was India's third medal in London. Shooters Gagan Narang had won bronze and Vijay Kumar claimed silver.
"It was unfortunate that Wang had to retire. I feel that Saina would have won anyway if the match would have gone on," said national coach Pullela Gopichand. He added: "It is a great victory and this is huge for Indian badminton. Saina was shocked when she lost the first game. Nevertheless a win is a win.".
It would have been ideal if the match had gone the full distance and helped Saina claim the medal. It was an unfortunate way to end the contest but Indian fans will take the medal which is the first ever for the country in this sport.
When the match started earlier, Xin dominated the first game. Saina began with a 4-1 lead but after that it was the left-handed Chinese all the day in the game. Xin won eight successive points to lead 14-8. From there on, she moved to 20-14 before Saina saved four game points.
At 20-18, the 26-year-old while playing a return shot, injured her knee. After receiving treatment by the court-side, she came back and took the first game in 25 minutes. After taking the first point in the second, Xin seemed to be in severe pain and conceded the match. Saina went to Xin, consoled her, hugged but there were no celebrations from her. But the Indian fans celebrated this historic moment on a Super Saturday.
6.31PM IST: Xin retires injured. Saina wins bronze
6.27PM IST: Xin wins first game 21-18
6.24PM IST: Xin is injured. 20-18. Doctors are attending to the Chinese player as she seems to have injured her left leg
The Indian ace shuttler lost to world number from China, Wang Yihan in the semi-finals on Friday. She was beaten 13-21, 13-21 by Yihan.
Left-handed Xin lost to her compatriot Xuerui Li 20-22, 18-21 in the second semi-final.
In six previous meetings between Saina and Xin, the latter holds a 4-2 advantage.
Saina Nehwal Vs Wang Xin (2-4)
BWF World Super Series Finals (16.12.2011) Saina won 21-17, 22-20
BWF World Championships 2011 (12.8.2011) Xin won 21-15, 21-10
BWF Sudirman Cup (26.5.2011) Saina won 21-15, 21-11
Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold (8.5.2011) Xin won 13-21, 21-8, 21-14
Malaysia Open Super Series (22.1.2010) Xin won 14-21, 21-8, 21-11
Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold (26.6.2009) Xin won 21-14, 21-10