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 continued…