By Amit Kumar Das
Guwahati, Feb 16 (PTI) Saina Nehwal beat PV Sindhu in straight games in the marquee clash of the tournament to retain her women’s singles crown at the 83rd Yonex Sunrise Senior Badminton Nationals here Saturday.
The three-time former champion Saina used her powerful smashes to telling effect, registering a 21-18 21-15 win the summit clash against Sindhu, who herself is a two-time winner.
Earlier, Sourabh Verma completed a hat-trick of titles, claiming the men’s singles crown by defeating young Lakshya Sen in straight games.
Saina and Sourabh went home richer by Rs 3.25 lakh while Sindhu and Sen received a cheque of Rs 1.70 lakh each.
“It was a good match and both of us played really well and it is a great feeling to win the nationals in such an atmosphere,” Saina, who has lost to Sindhu only once in international events at India Open 2017, told reporters.
“Sindhu is playing at the highest level for quite sometime and we both are playing well and she is a very tough opponent. It was not a simple match, there were tough rallies and simple errors from her helped me to win.”
In a repeat of last edition’s final in Nagpur, 2012 Olympics bronze medalist Saina once again had the upper hand over Sindhu during the exciting clash which was witnessed by a capacity crowed at the TRP Indoor stadium here.
Saina had also defeated 2016 Rio Games silver medalist Sindhu at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games summit clash last year.
Sourabh, the 26-year-old from MP’s Dhar showed great composure and used his experience to outdo 17-year-old Lakshya for the second time at the senior national finals. He had beaten Lakshya, then 15, in February 2017.
“Winning the nationals for the first time (in 2011) is always special but this time also it was a great feeling. Lakshya is improving regularly and every time you have to be alert against him. It was my fourth final (lost in Patna Nationals) and third win,” Sourabh said.
“At 6-6 in first game, I had done unforced errors so I thought if I reduce my mistakes I can make a comeback.”
In men’s doubles, second seeded makeshift pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Chirag Shetty clinched the title after beating top seeds Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran 21-13 22-20 in 33 minutes.
Chirag and Pranaav came together after the former’s regular partner Satwik Rankireddy was sidelined ahead of the tournament due to an injury. Satwik and Chirag had finished runners-up at the last edition.
For Pranaav, it is his third national title, having won the men’s doubles crown along with Akshay Dewalkar in 2013 and 2015 and the mixed doubles title with Prajakta Sawant in 2010.
Manu Attri and Maneesha K later beat top seeds Rohan Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg 18-21 21-17 21-16 to claim the mixed doubles crown.
In the women’s final, egged on by a vociferous crowd, Saina used her trademark smashes to either finish points or create openings.
Sindhu, on the other hand, lacked precision in her strokes, hit too many mid court returns, and also misjudged the shuttle at the back court.
Saina’s unforced errors initially cost her three points but she smashed her way to make it 3-4. Sindhu opened up a 7-5 lead but Saina managed to keep her nose ahead with a 11-10 lead at the break when Sindhu went wide.
Saina continued to dictate the pace, while Sindhu hit wide or at net to allow her opponent to lead 15-11. A superb cross court smash and a net dribble gave Sindhu two points before she again hit long.
With Saina leading 18-15, the match was stopped due to an issue pertaining to indoor lighting.
On resumption, Sindhu played a smash and drop to reduce the deficit but Saina earned three game points with power packed smashes and sealed it with another after Sindhu saved one.
At 3-3 in the second game, Saina found the net twice but she again clawed back at 5-5 with a smash.
The 28-year-old continued her great run and eventually grabbed a 11-9 advantage when Sindhu’s smash went wide.
Errors continued to creep in her game as Saina sealed the contest without much ado. Earlier, the men’s singles final contest started on an even keel as both the players were locked at 12-12.
However, few unforced errors by Sourabh allowed Lakshya to move to 11-6 lead. The experienced Sourabh narrowed down the lead to 11-12 and then went to the lead at 16-15 when Lakshya smashed out.
Sourabh slowly extended his lead and grabbed the game point when Lakshya misjudged the length and his weak return was punished. The youngster saved a couple of game points before Sourabh sealed it.
In the second game, Sourabh zoomed to a 3-0 lead early and though Lakhsya drew level at 4-4, the former champion managed to eke out a 11-7 lead at the interval.
The teenager couldn’t stop his errors from cropping in his game as Sourabh grabbed 20-11 match point with a body smash. Lakshya saved two match points before conceding the title on the third.