Saina Nehwal’s Indian Grand Prix Gold title this January was her first since October 2012. The long-awaited win did prove that she was still the best in the country but it wasn’t clear if India’s highest ranked, but out-of-sorts, player had finally turned the corner. In the days to follow as Saina continued to falter at the high hurdles those doubts persisted.
She lost to China’s World No.2 Wang Shixian at the All England and then to World No.3 Yihan Wang at the Swiss Open and also at the India Super Series.
On Tuesday, playing against world champion Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, Saina seemed to have rediscovered her old self. She beat the World No.4 22-20, 21-14 in just 42 minutes. The manner of the victory – one in which Saina outwitted the crafty 19-year-old Thai at the net – made the verdict even more sweeter for the Indian.
“The game I played today is really my game. I was not confident at the net earlier but I just needed a game like this. I think my defence was also good today because she tried to attack like she does. The first game was crucial and once I won that I think she was a little down in the second,” Saina said.
Ratchanok’s game is easy on the eyes as she explores difficult angles and constantly changes pace of the game. While her opponents scamper around the court, the Thai finds a way to float gracefully. Today, though, it was a different story. Saina not only matched her rival for poise but also brought to the court a wristy flair.
Before this tie, Saina had a 4-3 head-to-head advantage over Ratchanok but the Thai player had the better of the recent exchanges. She had beating the Indian in the last two encounters, including the All England Championships last year.
“I still can’t believe that I have beaten the World No. 4. Getting the first game out showed that my confidence is still there. It took some time to get back with regard to my strokes and movements. I somehow wanted to get that feeling of beating the top players. I know how hard I worked for this,” Saina added.
Ahead of the Uber Cup, Saina had skipped the Asian Badminton Championship. The decision to cut down on the number of tournaments she was to play this year with the focus shifting to the Uber Cup, the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games has proved to be beneficial for Saina.
India top Group
In an effort to avoid a top ranked team from another group in the quarterfinals, India decided to tamper with their expected line-up against Thailand and paired Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu in the second doubles in place of Pradnya Gadre and N Sikki Reddy.
However, with Saina, PV Sindhu and the first doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponapppa making it 3-0 against Thailand, India had topped Group Y. PC Thulasi lost the third singles to Busanan Ongbumrungpan 21-15, 21-10 but the hosts’ dominance in the first three matches made the Saina-Sindhu doubles debut a formality. The lack of familiarity of being on the same side saw them lose in three games.
Uber Cup results
India 3-Thailand 2: Ratchanok Intanon lost to Saina Nehwal 20-22, 14-21, Porntip Buranaprasertsuk lost to PV Sindhu 19-21, 14-21, Duanganong Aroonkesorn- Savitree Amitrapai lost to Jwala Gutta-Ashwini Ponnappa 16-21, 13-21, Busanan Ongbumrungpan bt PC Thulasi 21-15, 21-10, Kunchala Voravichitchaikul-Sapsiree Taerattanachai bt Saina Nehwal-PV Sindhu 12-21, 21-18, 15-21.
Men to play for pride
New Delhi: Already out of quarterfinals reckoning, India will look to restore pride when they take on an equally demoralised Germany in an inconsequential final Group C tie of the Thomas Cup on Tuesday.
India are hosting the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals for the first time and a lot was expected from the hosts and while the women’s team, led by Saina Nehwal, reached the quarterfinals, Parupalli Kashyap and Co. failed to cross the group stage on Sunday.
The men’s team suffered a 1-4 loss to former champions Malaysia in their campaign opener on Sunday and then went down fighting 2-3 to South Korea at the Siri Fort Sports Complex. It was the heart-breaking loss of K Srikanth to world no. 9 Wan Ho Son in the first singles, which put paid to India’s hopes as the hosts were looking to win all the three singles.
After a loss against Malaysia’s Wei Feng Chong, Kashyap came good against Lee Dong Keun and R M V Gurusaidutt was consistent with his gritty performances against Daren Liew and Hwang Jong Soo.
“Germany played well against Korea. They have two good singles player in Marc Zwiebler and Dieter Domke. Marc has been consistent over the years to be inside the top 20. He has played here during IBL and Domke is also a good player. Doubles is obviously good,” Kashyap said. “But we are very positive. I will be facing Domke and I have 100 per cent record against him. We will look to get on to a positive note against Germany,” he added. —PTI