Saina destroys Chinese opponent to lift Hong Kong title (Second Lead)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

HONG KONG - India’s sensational Saina Nehwal showed her grit and class as she overpowered China’s Shixian Wang 15-21, 21-16, 21-17 in a marathon encounter to win the Hong Kong Open and claim her career’s fourth Super Series badminton title and third of the year.

In front of a packed Queen Elizabeth stadium, Saina and Shixian, the two 20-year-olds who rose to great heights this season, produced enthralling high-quality badminton that kept the spectators on the edge of their seats for close to an hour and 11 minutes.

The victory has taken World No 4 closer to the top.

Saina summoned her fighting strength, that has taken her to top flight international badminton, as she rallied from a game down and showed calm demenour in tense moments against Shixian, who won the Swiss and Korea Super Series titles this season.

“I can’t believe it. It a very good win for me. She has been in really good form this season. I am happy that I could beat her.

“I was nervous after losing the first game but the match turned in my favour after the second game. In the third game, my target was to maintain the lead and I was successful in doing that,” an elated Saina said.

With this title victory and beating a top-quality Chinese player, who won the Asian Games gold and upset top seeded Xin Wang in the semifinals here, the Indian has settled many scores.

It will provide her succour after her disappointing Asian Games ouster last month where she was a strong medal hope, but returned empty handed, having lost to Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong in the quarterfinals. Maybe it was the loss that she derived her strength from as she has done time and again in her career. She won her first Super Series title in Indoensian Open immediately after the heart-breaking loss in the Beijing Olympics quarterfinal and since then, her career graph has moved rapidly.

“The win here is special since I was dissappointed after my quarterfinal loss at the Asian Games. I focussed on this tournament and wanted to win it here.”

“She (Shixian) beat me in the World Championships this year so it was always going to be a tough match. With the win, I proved it is not impossible to beat the Chinese. The confidence is the key factor while facing them.”

Saina also maintained a flawless record in the finals she played this year. It was her fifth title of the year. She won three back-to-back tournament in Indian Open, Singapore Open and Indonesian Open Super Series in June and then won the Commonwealth Games gold in October.

But this victory will certainly rank higher. She avenged her Asian Games loss against Pui here with a ruthless performance in the quarterfinal and also her defeat in the hands of World No.5 Shixian in the World Championships quarterfinal, the only time the two clashed before.

She also made a strong statement that she has not lost her sting when it comes to take on the Chinese players against whom she has struggled off late.

She also became the first Indian to win the Hong open after 28 years after legendary Prakash Padukone’s triumph in 1982.

The memorable moment, when Saina stood at the podium draped in Indian tricolour, came only after she overcame some tense moments on the court.

It was a ferocious battle and both Saina and Shixian came back strongly each time they were in perilous position taking points in heaps to keep themselves in the match. The two were tied 5-5 and then 7-7 in the first game in which Saina, playing from the faster side of the court, saw her lifts falling out and had difficulty in controlling the shuttle. Shixian forged ahead 14-9 and maintained the lead but Saina stayed closer, much to the comfort of the Chinese. Shixian, however, broke free from 16-14 and pocketed four points in the trot to put in beyond Saina.

Having moved to the other side of the court, it was Saina’s chance to dictate terms and she forced the Chinese to make errors. Down 4-5, Saina reeled off seven points to open up a 11-5 lead. Shixian clawed back with her fast drives to close the gap at 10-11. The Indian again hit the purple patch and took another seven points on trot (19-11). Shixian threatened another comeback with five straight points, but finally conceded.

Saina made a strong start in the decider and led 5-0. Just when she was looking at the prospect of moving to her favourite side of the court with a handosme lead, Shixian forced her way back. It was a battle of nerves from there on and both displayed their range of strokes. Wang had to do the catch up for the most of the game before going up for the first time at 14-13. Down 15-16, Saina chose the ocassion to show her vastly-improved repertoire. With a killer smash, a deft net-placing, and cross-court shots, Saina moved ahead at 19-16 to gain upper hand, taking the contest firmly in her grip.

Filed under: Badminton, Olympic Games

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