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Saina pips Sindhu to end title drought

Lucknow, Jan 26, 2014, PTI:
 Saina Nehwal with winning trophy in the women title of Syed Modi Inaternational India Grand Prix Gold Badminton Championship at BBD Badminton Academy in Lucknow on Sunday. PTI Photo

Saina Nehwal on Sunday snapped her 15-month title drought, clinching the Syed Modi International India Grand Prix Gold badminton crown with a straight-game victory over compatriot PV Sindhu in the women’s singles final here.

The London Olympics bronze-medallist staved off the challenge from Sindhu 21-14, 21-17 in the summit clash which lasted 40 minutes at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium here.

In the men’s final, national champion K Srikanth lost to China’s Xue Song 21-16, 19-21, 13-21.

Saina was tested by her younger rival but she kept her nerve to eventually break a 15-month title drought after appearing in the 22nd final of her international career.

“It’s an emotional moment for me. Loved the support I got. Lucknow has been my favourite city, I won my first title here in 2009. It feels good to win again. The win was more special as it came after such a long time,” she said moments after her victory. Saina who had last reached a final in the French Super Series in October 2012.

Luck was on Saina’s side as a couple of close line calls helped the 23-year-old to lead 3-0 initially and then she extended it to 5-0.

Sindhu earned her first point when Saina hit wide but the Commonwealth Games champion kept the pressure on her with some fine smashes to lead 8-2. Sindhu slowly started retrieving the shuttles and engaged in rallies to narrow down the lead to 5-8 but she was erratic at finishing the points and lagged 5-11 at the break.

After the breather, Sindhu shone with her overhead smashes and smart net play to narrow it to 11-14. But she once again faltered with the length of her returns to allow Saina lead 19-13. Saina then pocketed the first game without much fuss to lead 1-0.

Sindhu started the second game on an aggressive note and moved to a 4-0 lead. Saina then started to dictate terms to eventually equalise 5-5.While Saina used all her experience, Sindhu used her long arms and height to keep the shuttles at cross courts to lead 8-6 at one stage.

But Saina used her deceptive shots and body line smashes to turn the tables, leading 12-9. With Sindhu once again hitting wide and long, Saina led 15-10. Sindhu won a long rally but a better net play took Saina to 19-13. At this stage, Sindhu gathered three points but a low flick return went to the nets and that gave four match points to Saina.

A controversial line call helped Sindhu save a match point but Saina caught her junior opponent at the net to complete the formalities without wasting any more time.

This is Saina’s third straight victory over Sindhu. The two had played at the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) last year where Saina got the better of the Sindhu on two occasions.

Result: Men’s singles: Xue Song (Chi) bt K Srikanth (Ind) 21-16, 19-21, 13-21. Men’s doubles: Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (China) bt Kaixiang Huang/Si Wei Zheng 21-17, 19-21, 22-20. Women’s singles: Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt P V Sindhu (Ind) 21-14, 21-17. Women’s doubles: Q Chen/Y Jia (China) bt Y Xiaohan /Huang Yaqiong (China) 22-24, 21-19, 21-11. Mixed doubles: Yilv Wang/Huang Yaqiong (China) bt Kaixiang Huang/Qingchen Chen (China) 21-18, 21-14.


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