Saina wins Hong Kong Open in ‘dream come true’ tie (Roundup)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

HONG KONG - India’s Saina Nehwal showed her grit and class as she crushed China’s Shixian Wang 15-21, 21-16, 21-17 in a marathon encounter to lift the Hong Kong Open and claim her career’s fourth Super Series badminton title and the 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 the world no 4 closer to the top.

Saina summoned her fighting strength, that has taken her to the top of international badminton, as she rallied from a game down. She was calm even in tense moments against Shixian who won the Swiss and Korea Super Series titles this season besides the Asian Games gold.

After the win, Saina was overjoyed.

“I am very happy that I am finishing the year like this. It is like a dream come true,” she said.

“I can’t believe it. It is 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,” she said.

Sunday’s win will provide Saina succour after her disappointing Asian Games ouster where she was a strong medal hope, but lost to Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong in the quarterfinals.

“With the win, I proved it is not impossible to beat the Chinese. Confidence is the key factor while facing them.”

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 and then won the Commonwealth Games gold.

Sunday’s victory will rank higher. She avenged her Asian Games loss against Pui with a ruthless performance in the quarterfinal and her defeat in the hands of world 5 Shixian in the World Championships quarterfinal, the only time the two clashed earlier.

Saina has become the first Indian to win the Hong Kong Open after 28 years. The legendary Prakash Padukone triumphed in 1982.

As hundreds cheered her, with some waving the Indian flag, Saina stood on the podium draped in Indian tricolour.

Saina is looking forward to the 2012 London Olympics.

“The next year will be very tough. The first step is doing well in the Olympic qualifiers and then maintaining the fitness to excel in the Olympics.”

The shuttler credited her coaches and parents for the memorable victory and said she wanted to return to India at the earliest to savour home-made aloo paranthas.

“I want to thank my coaches and the physio for the effort they have put in. The credit for the win also goes to my mom and dad for their unconditional support.”

It was a ferocious battle. 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. 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 then on. Both displayed their range of strokes.

Shixian 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 occasion 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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