P.V. Sindhu reaffirmed her status as the rising star of Indian badminton as she lifted her maiden Grand Prix Gold title in Malaysia after getting the better of Juan Gu of Singapore in a gruelling final here on Saturday.

The top-seeded Indian took an hour and 11 minutes to prevail over her fifth-seeded opponent, 21-17, 17-21, 21-19.

In what hat turned out to be a close match, the in-form Sindhu played the smash winners better than Gu.

The world No.13 Indian shuttler hit as many as 17 smash winners compared to just nine by the Singaporean girl.

Sindhu opened up a 5-0 lead in the first game but the world No. 27 came back brilliantly to make it 7-7.

The Singaporean then won a couple of more points to climb to a 10-7 lead.

But the tall Indian teenager showed her class as she went on to clinch six consecutive points to make it 13-10 before surging ahead and forcing her rival into submission to claim the game 21-17.

In the second game, however, Gu launched a tough fight against the Indian. It was a neck-and-neck battle till 15-15 before Gu notched up three straight points to take a lead and wrap it up at 21-17.

The third and deciding game started on an even footing and the two were tied at 5-5. But Gu upped the ante and went on to take a massive 13-7 lead and it seemed all over for the Indian.

But with Gu leading 15-10, Sindhu fought back to pocket four points on the trot and reduce the gap to 14-15.

Thereafter the match tilted from one end to another with the scores levelled at 18-18 at one stage.

Sindhu managed to bag two more points and pushed herself when it mattered most to close the issue at 21-19.

Special Correspondent from Hyderabad adds:

A jubilant Sindhu later remarked that the winning feeling had not sunk in immediately. “It took a minute for me to realise that I had actually won the title. It was a very close match and could have gone either way.”

“Coming back from 10-15 down is something highly satisfying. It was a final which featured long rallies. I must thank my coach and the support staff for their splendid support right through the event,” Sindhu said.

“Definitely, after I won the Asian under-19 singles title, I had not really won a major title. In that backdrop, this is a significant win for me. I should only keep improving my performances,” said the young shuttler who trains at Pullela Gopi Chand Academy.

“Before this win, I was a bronze medallist in the China Super Series, silver medallist in the Lucknow Grand Prix and a semifinalist in the recent India Open in Delhi,” said the young champion, tipped by chief National coach Pullela Gopi Chand as the next best in Indian women’s badminton after Saina Nehwal.

Father delighted

Sindhu’s father and former International volleyballer P.V. Ramana was equally elated at his daughter’s performance.

“We were definitely a bit tense before the final. For it has been a long wait for a big title. But in the end, we are really happy that Sindhu lived up to the expectations of her coach Gopi,” he said.

“Definitely, this win should be a big morale-booster as she prepares for bigger events lined up later this year,” Ramana said.

More In: Other Sports | Sport