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Saina retains title in Mumbai

November 17, 2006 20:12 IST

Rising Indian star Saina Nehwal outclassed her Korean rival Jang Soo Young in straight games with a polished display and retained the women's singles crown in the US dollar 10,000 Indian International Badminton tournament in Mumbai on Friday.

But her compatriot Nikhil Kanetkar lost tamely to his higher ranked Korean opponent Lee Cheol Ho in the men's title-clash at the suburban Goregaon Sports Club courts.

Hyderabad teenager Saina totally outplayed her Korean rival with a fine mix of crafty net play and bodyline smashes in 30 minutes to win the one-sided women's final 21-9, 21-14 in half an hour. She received the top prize of US dollar 685 while Soo Young got USD 325.

It was the Indian girl's second win in a row over the same opponent after her 21-18, 21-17 win in the semi finals of the World Junior Championship last week in Soo Young's backyard at Incheon where Saina eventually finished runner-up in the girls' singles.

Saina swept her Korean rival Soo Young off her feet. But after her fine display the crowd was disappointed when left-handed Kanetkar, ranked 86th in the world, was beaten by his 76th ranked Korean rival Ho 21-11, 21-11 in less than half an hour in the men's title-clash.

Saina should have won the women's final with an even bigger margin had she not tried too hard to finish off the points quickly after taking a big lead early in the second game which helped Soo Young to draw level at 10-all.

The Hyderabad youngster said later that she was worried a bit when her rival caught up with her in the second game.

"I had lost to her in the world junior team championship and my victory over her in the individual event (in the semis) was a close one. I was a bit worried, but decided to go for net dribbles," she said.

As the Korean was tall with good reach, Saina said she tried to make her rival bend often with low shots instead of high tosses.

"I also tried smashes close to her body as she can pick up those hit wide of her sides," Saina said.

"I was a bit tired yesterday and I will go back and work on my stamina," said Saina who had finished runner-up in the world juniors in the run-up to her event here.

Saina also said her victory in the same tournament last year over Aparna Popat, then ranked 24th in the world, was the turning point in her career as it gave her enormous confidence ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne where she defeated higher ranked players and helped India win the bronze.

The men's final was also a one-sided affair with Kanetkar not matching up to the Korean Ho who took a commanding 11-3 lead in the opening before clinching it 21-11 when the Indian showed some fight.

The second game ran close initially before Ho upped the tempo and showed who was the better player in clear terms to walk away with the winner s prize of US dollar 795. Kanetkar got 395 US dollars for his efforts.

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