Saina raises Olympic medal hopes
Raising hopes for a medal in next month's London Olympics, Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal on Sunday won the Indonesia Open Super Series title after beating world number three Xuerui Li of China in a hard-fought summit clash in Jakarta.
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.
Sunday's title triumph -- her third of the same tournament -- also served a warning to the formidable Chinese shuttlers ahead of the Olympics. 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.
'Saina was mentally stubborn'
"It was a really, really tough and I love the crowd here. It's really nice here. Whenever I enter the court, I feel like a champion here," said Saina, who had earlier clinched this title in 2009 and 2010 and was a runner-up last year.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.
"It is a very good victory for Saina. It was a tricky situation because we had a very tough schedule. There were many tight matches and it has been a very tough week and what was good is that she kept pushing," national coach Pullela Gopichand said."
The mental tenacity that she showed all through the last two weeks is commendable because even when she lost a game, she was mentally stubborn," he said.
'Need to ensure that she peaks at the right time before the Olympics'
"She played on Sunday last week and reached here on Monday night. From Wednesday onwards, to put up the same intensity and physical effort match by match each day and go through so many up and downs with all the adrenaline, it was good to see her managing all that well," Gopichand said.
The national coach said there are a few aspects of Saina's game that need to be worked upon as she continues her build-up to the Olympics next month.
"We need to go and then assess her performance and work on the weaknesses. It would be very important for her to maintain her fitness and ensure that she peaks at the right time before the Olympics. These two wins will give her confidence a big boost," he said.
Congratulatory messages flow in for Saina
Meanwhile, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) President Akhilesh Das Gupta today congratulated Saina Nehwal. Gupta also congratulated coach Pullela Gopichand for "bringing laurels to the country.
"Also, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy congratulated Saina.
Saina made the country and particularly Andhra Pradesh proud by her achievement, he said in a message.