Saina Nehwal owned the court, and the crowd. And the assurance showed in her play. The world No 4 had her game face on from the moment she stepped into the arena and cracked into a smile only once the job was done. Ruthlessly so. 21-15, 21-7, the scoreline read in favour of Saina after just 36 minutes.
The most anticipated clash of the IBL final, and may be the tournament itself, was reduced to an exhibition of Saina’s strength and attitude. It helped her team, Hyderabad Hotshots, draw 1-1 level in the title clash.
K Srikanth of Awadhe Warriors had helped his team to a stunning start, beating the higher ranked Thai Tanongsak Saemsomboosnuk 21-12, 21-20 in the men’s singles.
Having won bronze at the world championships, Sindhu, the lanky 18-year-old, has grown in popularity in a country craving for young sporting heroes. But as their opening encounter in the IBL showed, where Nehwal won 21-9, 21-8, the established star would not lend her shoulder to raise Sindhu’s profile further.
That is the bloody mindedness that has helped her stay in the top five and win India’s first individual badminton medal (bronze at London 2012) at the Olympics. “Sindhu played really well and gave her best,” said Nehwal after the game.