Sensational Saina enters final

Sensational Saina enters final

Saina Nehwal made a perfect start to the new season, reaching the women's singles final of the USD 350,000 Indonesia Masters with a thrilling straight-game win over world no 4 Ratchanok Inthanon of Thailand here on Saturday.

The former world no 1, who has won thrice in Indonesia, dished out a spirited performance to overcome a fighting Ratchanok 21-19, 21-19 in the semifinal lasting 48 minutes.

Saina, who had a 8-5 head-to-head record against the 2013 World Champion Ratchanok, displayed tremendous fighting spirit as she erased a 6-10 deficit in the opening game and held on to the fort despite a late charge by the Thai shuttler in the second game.

The Indian ace will play world no 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei or Chinese eighth seed He Bingjiao in the final on Sunday.

In the opening game, Ratchanok opened up a 3-1 lead early on. Saina slowly tried to claw her way back and produced an excellent return from the back of the court which kissed the sideline to make it 5-5.

Saina won an exceptional rally but Ratchanok produced a brilliant straight smash and a cross court drop to move to 10-7. A net dribble gone wrong gave another point to Saina but she went long next as Ratchanok entered the break with a three-point cushion.

Saina committed another service error but rode on her drop and body line returns to keep within touching distance at 11-13.

She soon drew parity after Ratchanok went wide and then grabbed a 14-13 lead when the Thai player went long.

Ratchanok again turned the tables but Saina fought back immediately with another body smash after sending a series of returns on her rivals backhand in a rally that had 32 shots.

The Indonesian next won a video referral to move to 16- 15. Saina unleashed another down the line smash to again level scores but a half smash on Saina's backhand kept Ratchanok ahead.

Saina's return went long but she managed to stay at 18-18 after Ratchanok faltered at the net before Saina managed to grab the first game.

In the second game, Saina zoomed to a 6-1 lead. Ratchanok won a point with a cross court drop but Saina produced a towering smash and a precise return to make it 9-2.

Ratchanok then enjoyed a four-point burst to move to 6-10 but she hit the net next as eventually Saina entered the interval with a 11-8 lead after producing another down the line smash.

Saina continued to dominate the proceedings even as a tired-looking Ratchanok committed too many errors to allow the Indian to lead 17-11 at one stage.

Just when it looked all was over, Ratchanok changed gears and reeled off six points to draw parity at 17-17 but Saina hung on to clinch the tie.

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