What a day it was for Indian badminton! Two gold medals - one unexpected and the other unexpectedly hard-earned; together, the duo of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponappa along with the ever-so-popular Saina Nehwal made it worth for all those who struggled to find their way into the Siri Fort Complex on the final day of the Commonwealth Games here.
Saina battled nerves, uncertainty and a match-point against a gritty Wong Mew Choo before triggering off hysteria among those die-hard fans present in the stands. Interestingly, Saina's gold was also India's last of the Games and it helped India pip England in pursuit of the second spot on gold count, behind Australia, in the eventual medals tally.
What added to the joy was the fact that Saina's 19-21, 23-21, 21-13 victory came after she saved a match-point at 21-20 in the second game. Saina boldly went for the line on match-point, repeated the shot to earn a second game-point and forced the decider when Wong netted a weak return.
In the decider, after a few close exchanges during the early part, Saina broke away and a tired Wong failed to catch up. “God helped me win today,” admitted Saina after her first major title at home. “When I was a match-point down, it was like a shock. It was a big match and winning it means a lot to me. Even many years from now, those present here will always remember how Saina won the gold. It is a proud feeling.”
Setting the pace
Saina, who has now beaten Wong five times this year, including thrice at this venue and twice in the past week, set a breezy pace at the start. However, she wasted too much energy to win points in a hurry and ended up committing too many mistakes. Saina's struggle with length and placements of her return made it increasingly easier for Wong, whose anticipation was truly commendable on this day.
Wong was gracious in defeat when she said, “Saina was clearly the better player today. I tried my best. Towards the later part of the game, I was getting increasingly tired.”
Coach P. Gopi Chand was “really happy.” He said, “I told you we can win the ladies doubles gold,” reminded the chief coach. “If I look back at the last 10 days, it makes me extremely happy to find our country doing so well in so many disciplines. Not just badminton, just look at our medals from gymnastics, athletics and few others. I just hope the impetus on sports remains and we continue to get better,” said Gopi.