Sayali Gokhale was uncertain of her future a year ago, being left out of the group of elite players preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. But the Air India employee made people take note with the national title in February. She added another feather in her cap on Sunday by clinching the Spanish International Challenge title, defeating Lianne Tan of Belgium 21-9, 21-18 in the final.
The day wasn't fruitful for the other Indians as P. Kashyap lost the men's singles final, while Aparna Balan, pairing with Shruti Kurien in women's doubles and Arun Vishnu in mixed doubles, faltered at the last hurdle.
Sayali's title was another example of India's second rung carving a niche for itself on the international circuit.
"This is my third international tournament this year. I won't say that the competition level was very high, but I had to overcome the handicap of inexperience," Sayali told HT over phone.
The Prakash Padukone Academy trainee did not lose a single game in the tournament and attributed it to her improved level of fitness. "Last year, I wasn't in any of the India teams, and with no domestic tournaments, I worked on my fitness." Sayali will now play in the Tolouse Open in France and has been given a wild card for the World Championship to be held in Hyderabad this year.