Raising hopes for a medal in next month’s London Olympics, Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal won the Indonesia Open Super Series title after beating world number three Xuerui Li of China in a hard-fought summit clash. Despite losing the first game convincingly, the World No. 5 Nehwal, who demolished Ji Hyun Sung of Korea in straight games in the semi-final on Saturday, made an amazing comeback, saving two match points in the second game, and winning both the second and third game with close margins to complete a victory. The fifth-seeded Indian, who had won the Thailand Open last week, defeated Li 13-21 22-20 21-19 in an hour and four minutes to lift her third title of the year – the first being the Swiss Open.
Nehwal, who won the competition back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, tried her best to stop the Chinese shuttler, who ran away to a 19-13 lead in no time, and winning the first game with a comfortable margin. Today’s title triumph – her third of the same tournament – also served a warning to the formidable Chinese shuttlers ahead of the Olympics as Saina is expected to face stiff challenge from them in her quest for a medal in the London Games. Saina, 22, is expected to take a break to recharge herself for the gruelling contest ahead of the July 27 to August 12 mega sporting event.
It was a battle of attrition for Saina against an opponent to whom she had lost four times and won just once – that too way back in 2010 – previously. The start was ominous for Saina as she conceded four successive points. The two players seemed engaged in a battle of smashes and were at par with each other when it came to baseline rallies. But it was the net play in which Li enjoyed the upper hand with her delicate winners that Saina found hard to counter in the opening game. Li took an 11-6 lead with her seventh smash winner of the game leaving Saina with a lot of catching up to do.
Nehwal started the second game on a positive note, taking a 7-4 lead, but Li made a good comeback, winning three of her next four points. But Nehwal again went ahead, taking full use of the mistakes that her Chinese counterpart committed, saving two match points, and clinching the second game with just a two-point margin.Nehwal, though, continued the momentum in the decisive game, taking an early 5-2 lead, she let Li off the hook, allowing her counterpart to make another comeback. With the game tied on 14 each, Nehwal won seven of the next 12 points and the Indian managed to nose ahead, grabbing a 19-16 lead.
However, Saina let slip a championship point before clinching the game, match and the trophy when Li smashed a backhand stroke into the net.
She does not play a tournament till then and has a month-long special training to go through. With two wins in her kitty, she is filled with confidence to do it again London Olypmics.