Olympic medallists Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu will battle for supremacy in the women’s singles final of the Senior Badminton National Championship after scoring contrasting victories in Nagpur on Tueday.
Saina, who is currently ranked World No. 11, hardly broke a sweat as she defeated fifth seed Anura Prabhudesai 21-11 21-10 while World No 2 and top seed Sindhu was surprisingly stretched by Ruthvika Shivani before prevailing 17-21, 21-15, 21-11 in the semifinals.
In the men’s singles, it will be a clash between World No 2 Kidambi Srikanth and giant-killer H S Prannoy in a repeat of their semifinal battle at the French Open Super Series a little over a week ago.
Second seed Prannoy overcame Subhankar Dey 21-14 21-17, while top seed Srikanth saw off young rising shuttler Lakshya Sen 21-16, 21-18.
The possibility of a Saina versus Sindhu clash was high after the star shuttlers confirmed their participation in the tournament.
Saina hasn’t competed at the Senior Nationals since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, while Sindhu too gave the domestic tournament a miss after winning the 2011 and 2013 editions.
The two, who are employees of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), have met twice in international competitions. Their first meeting was at the 2014 Syed Modi International before they played each other in India Super Series this year.
While Saina prevailed in 2014, Sindhu had the last laugh in Delhi.
A lot has happened between those two battles with Saina becoming the World No 1 in 2015, while Sindhu rising to the pinnacle of world badminton after clinching the silver at Rio Olympics.
Saina, who had won the bronze at London Games, had suffered a career-threatening knee injury to crash out early from the Rio Games and spent the next few months recovering and scripting her way back to the top.
Sindhu, meanwhile, scaled new heights in international badminton after winning the 2016 China Open, India Open and Korea Open this year, besides winning the silver at the Glasgow World Championship.
Saina, 27, who had won the silver in 2015 World Championship, bagged a bronze at the Glasgow edition to show that she was getting back to her best.
The men’s singles final is also expected to be a close affair.
Srikanth and Prannoy have played four times in their international career but it was the former who had the last laugh on the last three occasions. The only time Prannoy had beaten Srikanth was way back at the 2011 Tata Open.
Srikanth has been in the form of his life as he clinched four titles after reaching five finals this season to join the likes of two-time former Olympic champion Lin Dan, three-time Olympic silver medallists Lee Chong Wei and current Olympic gold medallist Chen Long.
Prannoy too have been in fine form as he reached the semifinals at Indonesia Super Series Premier and French Open Super Series to achieve his career-high ranking of World No 11. He had outwitted Chong Wei twice and defeated Chen once during this season.
Among others, mixed doubles combo of Satwik Sai Raj R and Ashwini Ponnappa will face top seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy N after they emerged winners following the retirement of their semifinal opponents Sanyam Shukla and Sanyogita Ghorpade midway in the first game.
Pranaav and Sikki, however, had to dig deep to stave off a spirited challenge from Alwin Francis and Aparna Balan 21-16 22-24 21-8 in a match that lasted a little over an hour.
Top seeded women’s doubles pair of Sikki Reddy N and Ashwini Ponnappa will meet Sanyogita Ghorpade and Prajakta Sawant in the final.
The top seeded combo defeated Aparna Balan and Sruthi K P 21-10 21-14, while Sanyogita and Prajakta outlasted Rutaparna Panda and Mithula U K 18-21 21-12 21-16 in another semifinal.