As difficult as it is to take a League meant primarily to ‘entertain’ seriously, the Saina Nehwal versus PV Sindhu clash provides just the competitive edge the IBL would have been hoping for in the final.
It is one of the most popular themes in world sport: the master versus the challenger. Throw in the fact that they train in the same city under the same coach and the stakes seem that much higher. “Definitely, playing against someone from your own country, in any tournament, means there’s an added pressure,” said Hyderabad’s Ajay Jayaram.
While Nehwal was able to maintain the status quo in the opening match, beating Sindhu 21-9, 21-8, it remains to be seen how the dice will roll in the final when she leads Hyderabad Hotshots’ challenge against Awadhe Warriors in Mumbai on Saturday.
“It is a clash of styles,” said their coach Pullela Gopichand on Friday. “But Saina is on a different level right now; she has been in the top-five in the world while Sindhu has just broken into top-ten.”
Fresh from winning bronze at the world championships, the 18-year-old Sindhu took some time settling in the spotlight but might have found form just at the right time. She defeated the now-retired All-England champion Tine Baun, of Mumbai Masters, to turn the semifinal tie Warriors’ way on Thursday.
“Beating Tine Baun has given me confidence. I hope to give my best against Saina,” Sindhu, who stands at 5’10”, said ahead of their clash. “She is a senior player, experienced, so I’ll play my 100 per cent.”
Nehwal has won all her six singles matches so far and looked keen to sharpen her game further for the title clash as she trained for almost an hour and a half on the eve of the game.