Nagpur: Saina Nehwal dug deep into her reservoir of experience and upstaged fancied P V Sindhu, quite incredibly, in straight games to clinch the women’s singles title in the Senior National Badminton Championship.
The 27-year-old Saina, a former world number one, got the better of Sindhu, the Olympic and World Championship silver medallist, 21-17 27-25 in a pulsating summit clash that lasted 54 minutes.
“I am surprised with the way I played today. I moved well and picked Sindhu’s difficult shots,” an elated Saina said after the win.
The excitement reached a crescendo when Saina and Sindhu made it to the finals here. The whole stadium reverberated with cheers of ‘Saina Sindhu ‘India’ as both the players engaged in some exciting rallies at the Divisional Sports Complex.
The duo split the initial 10 points before Saina started putting the shuttle in difficult positions. She pushed it at the back court, came up with some bodyline returns to lead 10-7. A powerful smash then helped her grab a 11-9 lead in the first game.
Saina moved to a 17-12 lead after the interval before Sindhu reeled off four points to keep breathing down her opponents neck. However, unforced errors came back to haunt Sindhu as she hit out thrice and also found the net once to allow Saina pocket the opening game.
The second game went down to the wire with both the shuttlers battling it out till the last point.
It was Sindhu, who raced away to a 5-2 lead, but Saina slowly constructed her points by making Sindhu crammed for space. She clawed back at 6-6, but Sindhu ensured she had the advantage at the break as she led 11-8.
The 22-year-old lanky shuttler extended her lead to 14-10 and maintained that till 18-14. Sindhu, however, committed series of unforced errors to allow the London Games bronze medallist draw parity at 18-18.
With Sindhu’s smash going out, Saina held a slender lead. Sindhu again went wide with a backhand lift to hand over one match point to Saina.
However, Sindhu saved a match point and some excruciating long rallies ensued, which had the packed crowd on their toes. With the lead changing hands too frequently, it was Saina who eventually broke the deadlock when Sindhu failed to retrieve a return.