Double delight for India

Badminton India Open: Saina beats Intanon; Srikanth rallies past Denmark's Axelsen

Double delight for India
 The last four years, the Yonex Sunrise-India Open has seen Saina Nehwal wilt, wince and pushed to tears.  The Sirifort Sports Complex had become a heartbreak ground for her. Her inability to go deep into the tournament was questioned too. On Sunday, the 25-year-old buried the past with a sublime 21-16, 21-14 victory over former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand to clinch her maiden title here.

Kidambi Srikanth made the evening more special for India after he fought back from a game down to overpower Denmark's Viktor Axelsen 18-21, 21-13, 21-12 for his second Super Series title. The reticent Guntur boy had been in rich vein of form and backed himself to win the title.

All through the week his performances was overshadowed by the buzz surrounding Saina. All such barriers were broken when he regaled an overflowing stadium with a thrilling display in the final. This was the second title for Srikanth in the last one month, having won the Swiss Open GP earlier.

It was, in fact, a repeat of the China Open last year where both Saina and Srikanth took the men’s and women’ singles titles. Srikanth admitted that Saina’s win inspired him.

 "It was a very good thing to happen that before my match Saina won the title. It is good for the sports in the country. It actually makes you want to win the match,” said Srikanth.
For Saina, it was another addition to the long list of her accomplishments. Ratchanok, a 20-year-old from Yasothon, Thailand, had been a champion here in 2013 and had troubled Saina with her fast and deceptive game. But the improvement in the Indian's game was there for all to see, even though Ratchanok appeared to carry fatigue from her marathon semifinal contest against Carolina Marin.

Saina lifted the teasing drops, the deceptive cross-courts, and the flicks of her wristy opponent with remarkable ease. Most of all, it was her defence that stood out. Not once in the match did she trail and though Ratchnok created trouble now and then with her sharp strokes, she couldn’t stop Saina from sailing through. An emotional Saina ran to hug her coach Vimal Kumar.

“It was a tough match. Ratchanok is one player who always gives me a tough fight whenever I play her. But the way I was moving today, I was picking all her tricky strokes and she was not liking it and making a lot errors. I was surprised to see so many spectators today. It was really a fantastic match,” said Saina, who will next play in the Malaysia Open followed by the Singapore Open, thus beginning the defence of her World No 1 spot.

“Titles make me hungry for more titles. I hope to win more.”Srikanth was at his attacking best against Axelsen, who sprinted away with the first game despite a late comeback from the Indian. But Srikanth returned strongly to open up a 11-4 lead in the second game and never looked back.

“I don’t think about winning. I just want to play my best and that is the reason I don't feel fear. I got back my confidence in the second game. It was a close third game, where it was 12-12 at one point. But I continuously kept the pressure. Every win is special for me,” he said.

Meanwhile, Badminton Association of India announced a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh for Saina for achieving the world number one spot and for winning the India Open. Srikanth was presented Rs five lakh.

Results (finals, Indians unless mentioned):
Women’s singles: Saina Nehwal bt Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) 21-16 21-14
Men’s singles: K Srikanth bt Viktor Axelsen (Den) 18-21, 21-13, 21-12
Women’s doubles: Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Jpn) bt Luo Ying /Luo Yu (Chn) 21-19, 21-19

Mixed doubles: Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin (Chn)bt Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen (Den) 21-19, 21-19
Men’s doubles: Chai Biao/Hong Wei (Chn) bt  Mads Conrad-Petersen/ Mads Pieler Kolding (Den) 21-18, 21-14.
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