Saina Nehwal kept her date with history by becoming the first-ever Indian shuttler to win three Super Series titles when she downed a fighting Japanese Sayaka Sato 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 in the 45-minute final of the Indonesian Open Super Series in Jakarta on Sunday.
The World No. 3 from India looked ominous to start with in the first game quickly wrapping up a 11-6 lead before the Japanese came back with some classy display at the net. But, as she has been doing of late so consistently in big event, Saina rose to the occasion with her trade-mark strokes catching the opponent off-guard.
But in the second game, it was apparent the 20-year-old Saina was upset with the draught factor as Sato dictated terms with a quick 8-4 lead and never really allowed the defending champion to come back. Combining a brilliant array of deep returns with some delectable drops at the net, Sato looked a much better player than her world ranking of 26 would have suggested.
And, it was not a surprise when Sato clinched the second one at 21-13.
In the decider, the Hyderabadi looked far more determined, clearly slowing down the pace of the game preferring the gentle drops to the big ones. A strategy which rattled Sato as she seemed to have lost the rhythm even as the Indian moved into top gear.
Picking points with the desired consistency, Saina re-asserted her growing stature with a vintage performance when it mattered most to clinch the decider and the title at 21-19, 13-21, 21-11.
A performance which saw her father Dr. Harvir Singh turn emotional with tears rolling down in the company of his wife Usha Rani, who was herself a former Haryana State badminton player.
“It was a fantastic moment. She did not only just us but the entire country proud with his win,” says Harvir. “With this win, Saina demonstrated what sort of a player she is now and this win should silence any critics about the big-match temperament,” he pointed out.
“I am also thankful to Gopi and his coaching team for their unstinted support to her right through,” Saina’s proud father remarked.
Gopi, now in Bangalore, says this is a “dream-come-true” finish. “Not very often does one see any shuttler win three big international titles in-a-row. This is a great day for Indian badminton. Hope things will only keep improving,” he exclaimed.
Dronacharya S. M. Arif said that the win was always expected given her tremendous improvement. “I think she is the fittest and the strongest player in women’s circuit now on current form,” the ageing gentleman remarked. “This should be one of the best days in Indian sport itself for not very often does an individual from India win three international titles in the space of three weeks,” he remarked.