Saina Nehwal continued to gain in confidence ahead of Olympics as the top-seeded Indian entered the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold final after outlasting local favourite Porntip Buranaprasertsuk with a straight-game win in Bangkok on Saturday.
Saina won 24-22 21-11 to keep her unbeaten record against third seed Buranaprasertsuk intact, extending it to 4-0 overall.
The Indian will be up against another Thai, second seed Ratchanok Inthanon, in the summit clash after the home player defeated China’s Lin Wang 21-13 21-19 in her semifinal match earlier on Saturday.
Going into the match, Saina had the psychological edge having beaten Buranaprasertsuk in their three previous encounters, the most recent being last year’s Denmark Open.
But Buranaprasertsuk seemed determined to turn the tables this time and she matched world number five Saina shot for shot in the first game.
The world number 17 Thai had in fact better statistics to show in terms of smash winners and net play in the opening game.
But not the one to give up too easily, Saina quelled the challenge by getting it right in terms of more consecutive points won which ultimately proved decisive and gave her the opening game.
Buranaprasertsuk seemed to have given it her all in the opening game itself and Saina took advantage of the fatigue factor by outwitting the local favourite with her deft net play to seal the match and remain on course for her second title of the season.
Saina had defended her title at the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold in March in Basel, Switzerland early this year.
National coach Pullela Gopichand said Saina displayed tremendous grit to bounce back from a scratchy start.
“Saina started slowly, Porntip was executing her smashes very well. So Saina was a bit down and conceded a lead but she picked herself in the second part of the game and went neck and neck. It was pretty close and a tight finish in the end,” Gopichand told PTI from Bangkok.
The coach said Saina’s fighting spirit was there to be seen in both the games and she was a deserving winner of a tricky encounter.
“In the second game, she got back her confidence and played more rallies. Overall, Porntip is a tricky player and Saina took time to adjust to the court. But it was good to see the way Saina fought back after conceding such a lead and pulling off the game comfortably in the end,” he explained.
Saina’s next opponent is also a Thai and Gopichand said the Indian will have to be on top of her game to counter Inthanon, who would have the home fans rooting for her.
“Inthanon is a rally player and has good smashes and retrieve and she is good at the net too. If Saina can stick to her gameplan, she can do well,” he said.
Inthanon and Saina have faced each other trice and it is the Indian who holds the edge at 2—1.
They were up against each other twice last year and while Inthanon triumphed in the Sudirman Cup in May, Saina took revenge by beating her in the Japan Open in September.