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24 February 2024

India's Nehwal blows chance in All-England final

By Reuters

World champion Carolina Marin of Spain staged a remarkable comeback to win the All-England Championships on Sunday as Saina Nehwal blew the chance to become India's first woman winner.

Olympic bronze medallist Nehwal threw away a 6-1 lead in the second before the Spaniard pressed the throttle to land her first Superseries singles title 16-21 21-14 21-7.

"It is an amazing feeling," said Marin after her 62-minute win. "I was making too many easy mistakes and was really nervous at the start, but I just wanted to enjoy it.

"In the second game and at 11-9 down I felt there was a change and that I could win. To beat Saina is a great thing."

In the men's final world champion Chen Long overcame a stern challenge from Denmark's Jan O Jorgensen in a high-quality final, prevailing 15-21 21-17 21-15 as China secured their eighth men's title since 2005 in the sport's oldest event.

Jorgensen was aiming to become the first European to win the title since his compatriot Peter Gade in 1999.

Nehwal played down the expectation before her final but interest was such that former Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar wished her luck on Twitter.

She was bidding to become the first All-England singles winner from India since her former coach Pullela Gopichand won the men's title 14 years ago.

And the odds were stacked in her favour to achieve a fourth victory over the Spaniard - the Indian having already beaten Marin to the Syed Modi International title in January - after running away with the first game.

After a tentative start Nehwal opened up an 11-6 lead, offering stout defence against Marin's attacking forays to the net, which more often than not finished with an arm-clenched celebration if she won the point.

She soon held eight game points before Marin finally found some rhythm to win four rallies in a row, though Nehwal finished the game with a smash from the net.

Marin's game failed to materialise in the early throes of the second. At 3-1 down, she saw a flighted lift from Nehwal land in, went wide with a smash on the next point before a fierce winner from the Indian opened up a five-point lead.

But Marin began to find her rhythm and at 8-4 down secured a run of eight successive points as Nehwal ran out of ideas.

"The game just went away from me," admitted Nehwal.

"I was playing very cool but I began to hurry my shots and I made errors. I tried to play it safe."