Updated: November 16, 2014 5:44:55 pm
In a historic day for Indian badminton, top shuttlers Saina Nehwal and K Srikanth clinched the women’s and men’s singles title of the USD 700,000 China Open Super Series Premier respectively, in Fuzhou on Sunday.
While Olympic bronze-medallist Saina had to draw from her reservoir of experience to stave off the challenge of the Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, young Srikanth notched up a stunning straight-game victory over two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China to register his maiden Super Series title.
In her sixth appearance in the prestigious tournament, World No. 5 Indian prevailed over the 17-year-old Akane 21-12 22-20 in the women’s singles final that lasted 42 minutes at the Haixia Olympic Sport Center.
The 21-year-old Srikanth showed nerves of steel to produce a dominating performance which helped him see off five-time world champion Lin 21-19 21-17 in the men’s singles final which lasted 46 minutes.
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This is the first time any Indian male shuttler has won a Super Series Premier event ever since the Super Series and Premier tournaments were introduced.
In a battle of nerve, Srikanth led 11-7 initially but Lin came back to narrow it down to 11-10. The 31-year-old showed tremendous control in his strokes but the Indian used his sharp angled net dribbles and powerful smash to keep his nose ahead at 14-12.
Lin, however, soon started bothering the Indian with his delayed and precise strokes to turn the tables, reaching 19-17. Srikanth found his bearing in time and not only clawed his way back with a couple of points but also earned his game point after winning a referral.
The Indian then produced a body line smash to snatch the opening game from his fancied rival. The second game started on a similar note as both the shuttlers put their best foot forward to move together till 8-8 before Lin entered the interval with a 11-9 lead.
Srikanth, however, soon drew parity at 12-12 and then moved neck and neck till 15-15.
Srikanth then slowly eked out a lead and soon gained a healthy four-match point lead. Lin saved one but the Indian grabbed the next point to etch his name in the history books.
Srikanth, who won the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold last year, had finished runners-up at the 2014 India Open Grand Prix Gold event in Lucknow and was a quarter-finalist in this year’s Malaysian Open.
The Andhra Pradesh lad was also a part of the Indian badminton contingent that reached the semifinals of the mixed team event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
It was Saina who brought the first cheers into the Indian camp when she claimed her maiden China Open title in her sixth appearance.
Saina led 3-1 early on in the opening game and extended it to 8-4. She lost a few points due to miscued strokes but the Indian managed to go into the interval with a four-point lead with the help of an angled stroke and a down-the-line smash.
Saina controlled the shuttle and the pace of the game and forced her young rival to commit errors, opening up a healthy 14-7 lead.
Akane showed sparks of brilliance but it was not enough to threaten Saina, who moved into game point with a delicate net shot and then a disguised return to earn the bragging rights.
Akane produced a better performance in the second game.
The 17-year-old was quick on her legs and bothered Saina with her straight smashes to enter the break with a slender 11-9 lead.
The closing moments of the second game turned out to be nerve-wrecking as both the shuttlers engaged in aggressive rallies before the experienced Indian clawed her way back at 14-14.
Saina mixed her strokes well to dominate the rallies but she still found it difficult to find a chink in the Japanese’s armour who returned everything that was directed at her.
At 18-18, Saina earned a point with a disguised net shot, but the Indian hit one long and then missed another point to allow Akane to close in at 20-19. However, a couple of long shots by the Japanese swung the match other way, sealing the title in the Indian’s name.
This is Saina’s third title of the year as the Indian had won the Australian Super Series in June, besides clinching the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold early in the year.
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