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Nehwal’s run to the semi-finals raised a tidal wave of hope in her home country but she admitted to suffering an attack of nerves as she crumbled 21-13 21-13, despite the irresistible support of the Wembley Arena crowd. “I was struggling to move properly,” she told reporters. “I was feeling a little bit (nervous), I think. I was not playing my strokes freely and I was just too much in a hurry.

“She was playing excellent. I didn’t see her playing so well in the previous rounds but today she played really well.” China‘s involvement in a match-throwing scandal that saw eight athletes disqualified this week has overshadowed the tournament and the second women’s semi-final between the team’s second-seeded Wang Xin and third seed Li Xuerui was played in a strangely subdued atmosphere.

Li prevailed 22-20 21-18 to carry on her stunning rise to the pinnacle of world badminton, having come from nowhere to win 30 straight matches in the leadup to the Games. The final will be played on Saturday. “I’ve been getting text messages from my parents back in Chongqing every day,” she told Reuters with a smile, referring to her home city on the Yangtze river. “They are really nervous!”

With China on course to sweep all five of the badminton titles, Danes Fischer and Pedersen put up a rare show of European defiance by belting Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir 21-12 21-12 for the bronze.

The fiery Fischer smashed a racket into pieces off-court after he and Pedersen’s tight loss in the semi-final to top-seeded Chinese opponents Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei. After sealing the bronze, he tossed another one to a courtside fan and threw his shirt to a roaring clutch of supporters.

It was mission talented for Denmark’s barrel-chested head coach Lars Uhre, who set a goal for his team to pinch a medal from badminton’s Asian powers and make another semi-final. “Very emotional feeling, that’s the moment I’ve been waiting for so long,” Uhre told Reuters, struggling to hold back tears.

It was Denmark’s first badminton medal since mixed double pair Jens Eriksen and Mette Schjoldager’s bronze at the 2004 Athens Games. Malaysia’s top seed Lee Chong Wei and Olympic champion Lin Dan of China will each bid for a place in the men’s singles final later on Friday.

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