12 Dec : Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal rallied to register a scintilliating three-game victory over Shixian Wang of China to clinch her third Super Series title of the year at the Hong Kong Open in Wanchai on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Indian capped her career’s fourth Super Series title triumph with a 15-21 21-16 21-17 win over the third seed Chinese in a gruelling one hour and 11 minutes summit clash at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium.
The girl from Hyderabad won back-to-back titles — Indian Open Grand Prix, Singapore Open Super Series and defended the Indonesian Super Series — before clinching the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in October in New Delhi.
Saina, who dropped to fourth in the world rankings, is likely to inch closer to the number one spot with this resounding victory.
Saina played a tactical game after she lost the first game and clawed her way back with some fast-paced rallies and powerful smashes to outwit the Chinese world number five.
In the second game, Saina jumped to 11-5 from 5-5 but Shixian narrowed the gap to 11-10 before the gutsy Indian surged ahead to 19-11 by registering seven straight points.
But Saina missed a couple of points on the baseline and nets to allow Shixian close the gap to 19-16. But with the Chinese hitting the shuttle out, Saina was back into the match.
In the edge-of-the-seat decider, Saina and Shixian were locked in a gruelling battle and didn’t concede an inch to each other.
The Chinese kept pushing the shuttle at the back court but Saina was in no mood to relent as she retrieved everything and sent down some powerful cross court smashes to open up a 5-0 lead.
But a couple of misjudgements on the baseline allowed Shixian to narrow the gap.
The Chinese started playing fast rallies and caught Saina at the nets to make it 6-7 but a series of unforced errors and a sensational cross court smash saw Saina change sides with an 11-9 lead.
Back into her winning side of the court, Saina involved her rival in long rallies and waited for Shixian to make mistakes.
A controversial baseline call gave Shixian a lead of 14-13 but Saina didn’t give up and wrested the lead at 15-14, before being locked at 16-16.
From here on, Saina walked away with a three-point cushion with a smash, a net dribble and round-the-head drop to move to 19-16. Shixian gained another point with a smash to make it 19-17.
But Saina soon achieved the match point with another smash that floored Shixian and with the Chinese hitting the shuttle out, Saina threw her racquet to the audience in celebration.