Saina rallies to clinch Thailand Open title
Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal got a shot in the arm ahead of next month's Olympics as she lifted the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold title after rallying to beat Thailand's Ratchanok Inthanon in the final of the event in Bangkok on Sunday.
The 22-year-old world number five Indian beat Inthanon 19-21, 21-15, 21-10 at the C U Sport Complex in Bangkok for her second title of the year after the Swiss Open win in March.The win will come as a massive boost to Saina's confidence ahead of Olympics in July-August.
The top seeded Indian was scratchy to start with but drew from her experience and superb maneuvering at the net to beat her second-seeded 17-year-old rival.
Although it was a see-saw battle to start with, Inthanon's energy and fabulous baseline play stood out. The smash winner, which is Saina's stock shot, was coming out more frequently from the Thai's racquet who seemed to revel amid the partisan crowd's thunderous cheering.
Photographs: Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images
Saina was clearly the better of the two at net
Inthanon, ranked 11th in the World, grabbed a 10-7 lead after Saina's attempted smash landed outside the court and the teenager, to whom Saina had lost in the Sudirman Cup last year, made it 16-10 in no time.At that point, Saina was struggling to match up to the Thai's sheer athleticism and swiftness on the court.
In fact, most of the points that Saina notched up during the game were courtesy the errors committed by Inthanon instead of standout shots by the Indian.
Saina was clearly the better of the two at net but it was Inthanon's seven smash winners against the Indian's one which made the decisive difference in the game.
The change of ends in the second game also brought with it a change in fortunes as Saina took the lead by drawing Inthanon to the net and forcing her to commit mistakes.
The Indian took a 8-3 lead with four net winners as Inthanon struggled to adjust the pace of her shots from close range. In all, Saina managed 12 net winners in this game against Inthanon's three.Inthanon's energy that was so visible in the opening game seemed lacking in the second but Saina too deserved credit for adapting to the pace of the game, in fact slowing it down much to the Thai's discomfort.
'It is a very good victory and a very important one'
Leading 17-10, Saina came up with one of her trademark smash winners and let out a scream before notching up four successive points to clinch the title.National coach Pullela Gopichand lauded Saina's performance and said she remained positive despite being down to start with.
"Saina started off slowly. Actually Inthanon was playing some very hard smashes in the initial part of the first game but Saina almost caught up with her and lost very closely," Gopichand said.
"But in the second game, she was confident and opened up a good lead and maintained that till the end. In the third game, she dominated throughout. Saina played the kind of game which was important because, she played lot of net dribbles and got points from the net," he explained.
Gopichand said the title has lifted Saina's spirits and she would be aiming to continue the form in next week's Indonesia Open.
"It is a very good victory and a very important one going into the next tournament which is in Indonesia. Hopefully, she will do well there and after that we will have five weeks of training for the Olympics, so overall a good victory for Saina," he said.