Saina Nehwal has time and again produced brilliant displays of her never-say-die attitude, the ability to pick herself up after a devastating setback.
The 20-year-old put behind a shattering quarterfinal loss in the Asian Games last month to complete a hat-trick of Super Series titles on Sunday with a 15-21, 21-16, 21-17 victory over Asian Games gold medallist Shixian Wang of China to lift the Hong Kong Open women’s singles crown. It was Saina’s fourth Super Series title overall.
Saina’s triumph in the 71-minute duel not just made her only the second Indian behind Prakash Padukone (1982) to bag a Hong Kong Open singles title but also helped her maintain a 100% record in all finals in 2010 (see box).
In fact, the Indian ace has not lost a final of any tournament since the 2007 Indian Satellite in Guwahati.
That record looked under threat as the world No 4 went into the final as an underdog against the Chinese opponent, who had thrashed the Indian in the World Championships quarters in August and was in a devastating form in Hong Kong.
The opening game went according to the script as Wang exploited Saina’s susceptible backhand and nerves before the change of sides triggered a change in fortunes.
With the AC drift behind her, Wang struggled to control the flight of the shuttle at the start of the second game, handing Saina a 11-5 lead. By the time the Chinese began finding her feet and staged a recovery, the CWG champion had got her confidence back and had forced the tie into the decider.
The final game proved to be more about resilience than tactics as both players refrained from extravagant stroke selection and preferred to keep the rally going till a clear opening presented itself. Saina controlled the net with precision and it was only at 16-16 that the Hyderabadi brought out the power smash from her repertoire.
She followed it up with an incredible net dribble to open up a two-point lead and could not hide her jubilation as Wang’s overhead toss sailed beyond the baseline to hand her the title. Saina threw her racket into the crowd in celebration.
“I was nervous at the start and the first game added to the pressure. But I got a good lead in the second and that brought me back in the game. In the third game, it was all about keeping the lead since I was going to be on the better side of the court during the end,” Saina said.
The former world junior champion insisted the title win was very important for her since she was unhappy with her performance in the Asian Games.
“It means a lot to me. I was not very happy with my performance in the Asian Games. I just forgot that and just wanted to give my best in this tournament. I am very happy that I managed it,” she added.
Saina is now scheduled to defend her Indian Grand Prix crown in her hometown, Hyderabad, next week.