Saina sets up final date with Sindhu

A resurgent Saina Nehwal and the fast-rising PV Sindhu set up a summit clash at the Indian Grand Prix Gold after emerging victorious in their respective semifinals here on Saturday.

Saina reached her first finals in 15 months after prevailing over China’s Xuan Deng 21-14, 17-21, 21-19 while Sindhu surpassed Lindaweni Fanetri from Indonesia 21-6, 12-21, 21-17 to set up a their first ever international clash against each other at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor stadium here.

The two, however, have played at the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) last year where London Olympics bronze medallist Saina got the better of the Sindhu on two occasions.

In men’s category, K Srikanth sailed into the final by overcoming compatriot H S Prannoy 21-18, 22-20, while young Aditya Prakash could not extend his dream run as he went down 10-21, 7-21 against ninth seed Xue Song of China in the other semifinal.

The women’s singles semifinal clash between Saina and Xuan turned out to be a edge-of-the-seat thriller even though 40 ranking places separated the two.

Saina, the top seed, was untouchable in the first game as she kept a distance right from the start to the end even though Xuan kept fighting.

In the second game, Xuan opened up a slender 6-4 lead early on but Saina swiftly made it 7-7. However, the Chinese gathered five straight points to grab the lead at 15-14 and with Saina succumbing to unforced errors, Xuan roared back into the contest.

In the decider, Saina was erratic as her shots went wide and long and in a flash she was lagging 0-7. The Indian drew her first point with a crosscourt smash and then engaged in a fierce rally and slowly climbed her way to equalise at 8-8 when Xuan hit one long.

A net play gave Xuan a point and the Chinese picked up two more point, catching Saina at the nets, to lead 11-8. Saina was too eager to finish the rallies earlier but the Indian slowly changed her game and made the Chinese run the court.

The left-handed Chinese kept the pressure on Saina but the Indian held her nerve and sealed the win.

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