Saina Nehwal won her third consecutive tie in the Vodafone Indian Badminton League, beating Juliane Schenk of Germany 17-21, 21-19, 11-6 in the women’s singles, at the NSCI Stadium here on Monday. Hyderabad Hotshots defeated Pune Pistons 4-1, the latter suffering its first reverse after two wins on the trot.
Ranked No. 4, a slot below the German, Saina took time to get cracking. The German dominated the opening game against the crowd favourite, leading 7-5 at the first break and extending it to 14-7 the next time the players took a breather.
The tide turned at 15-10 when Saina sent her rival scurrying crosscourt with three wristy forehands in a row and Juliane fired the return long.
Saina got the crowd rooting for her with her dazzling skills at the net. She went for her shots even on game point, but Juliane closed out the game at 21-17 in 19 minutes.
The intensity increased in the second game as the scores were level 3-3 and 6-6 before the ‘Hotshot’ from Hyderabad brought out her fierce forehand to make it 7-6 with a stinging smash.
Juliane started to feel the heat as Saina raised her game to a different level, but the German kept her composure to inch ahead 14-13. The Indian drew level at 15 and the game was a thriller from there on. Saina managed to take the game 21-19 and stretch the contest to the decider.
The German struggled to keep pace with the Indian and the third game turned into an anti-climax. The exhausted and error-prone German suffered her first loss in the event as Saina won the game 11-6. The match lasted 59 minutes.
Saina, who thanked the German for bringing out the best in her, said: “I love the way Juliane plays. She always gives me a fight and fought well for her team.”
Ajay Jayaram set the tone by stunning World No. 5 Tien Minh Nguyen 21-19, 21-8 in the men’s singles.
After Saina had played her part and left the arena, Malaysian doubles specialists V. Shem Goh and Khim Wah Lim beat Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas 21-19, 21-16.
Chosen ahead of Taufik Hidayat, World No. 24 Jayaram played some wristy shots and showed better positional sense to nose ahead 18-15.
Nguyen came alive at this point, displaying great retrieving skills.
He won the next three points to draw level at 18 with a crosscourt smash. Jayaram regrouped to win the game 21-19 in 20 minutes.
The Indian continued in the same vein as he led 7-3 and 14-6 in the second.
Nguyen kept chasing the shuttle around in vain and lost 8-21, the match won in style with a leap and kill by Jayaram. The tie lasted 40 minutes.
“I had lost to Tien last year and was under pressure to win this time,” Jayaram said.
Hyderabad Hotshots bt Pune Pistons 4-1 (Ajay Jayaram bt Tien Minh Nguyen 21-19, 21-8; Saina Nehwal bt Juliane Schenk 17-21, 21-19, 11-6; V. Shem Goh & Wah Lim Kham bt Sanave Thomas & Rupesh Kumar 21-19, 21-16; Tanongsuk bt Saurabh Verma 21-19, 21-18; Shem Goh & Pradyna Gadre lost to Joachim Fischer Nielsen & Ashwini Ponappa 11-21, 14-21).