India's Saina Nehwal kept her growing legion of fans at the Nehru indoor stadium on tenterhooks, teasing and taunting them before emerging triumphant in the $1,20,000 Yonex Sunrise-India Open Grand Prix gold badminton championships here on Sunday.
The women's top seed and World No.6 overcame a stiff challenge from Choo Wong Mew of Malaysia, the second seed, to win 20-22, 21-14, 21-12 in 56 minutes in the singles final.
There wasn't much to cheer, though, for India in the men's singles final as Gurusaidutt went the Chetan Anand way failing to get past the defensive skills of Yunus Alamsyah of Indonesia. Yunus defeated Gurusaidutt in a one-sided match 21-13, 21-18.
The crowd came in large numbers just to see and cheer Saina. The fan following for the Indian certainly augurs well for the sport. Throughout the match, the spectators kept chanting ‘Saina, Saina.'
Feeling nervous and unsure of her shots, Saina lost two game points at 20-18 to lose the first game. Credit should be given to Choo who moved well and was quick and sharp at the net. She made Saina play close to the net, an area where Saina was fumbling.
Like all champions, Saina found a way out. She played long rallies, deceived Choo from the back with overhead taps and smashes in the second game. There wasn't a murmur of doubt as to who the better play was once Saina ran up a 19-13 lead with a wonderful overhead tap selling Choo a dummy smash.
With her confidence on a high Saina, showing her intentions well and clear, was determined not to prolong the decider. Her forte — smashes — were spot as she kept attacking Choo regularly.
From 8-5, Saina hit three clear smashes that completely unsettled Choo. With Saina mixing her drops and smashes judiciously, Choo had no clue as to what was happening.
As Choo's forehand sailed long at 20-12, Saina heaved a relief and raised her racquet to acknowledge the support of her fans.
“I was nervous in the first game after leading 20-18. My net play was not good. After the first game, I said to myself ‘be confident and relax'. Then I started to play back and went for smashes which clicked,” said Saina.
“Honestly. I loved it. I didn't expect so much people to come and watch my match. Chennai has always been a happy place. Winning in India gives me a lot of happiness and confidence.”
“He is boring, he is unattractive,” people watching Yunus Alamsyah said. The Indonesian, unmindful of the critics, steadfastly played to his strengths — solid net play backed by fine retrieving skills. Against Gurusaidutt, he didn't change his strategy one bit. He engaged Gurusaidutt in long rallies intent to either tire him out or push him to force the pace.
And the ploy worked. “I could have been more patient. I should have constructed more rallies. I think I was slower at the net while he dominated it,” said Gurusaidutt.
Jwala, Diju pair wins
While Jwala Gutta (with Ashwini Ponnappa) lost in the women's doubles summit clash, she made it up with a victory in the mixed doubles final (with V. Diju).
The results (finals, Indians unless otherwise mentioned):
Men: Yunus Alamsyah (Ina) bt 7-Gurusaidutt 21-13, 21-18; doubles: Fairuzizuan Mohd. & Zakari Abdul Latif Mohd (Sin) bt Rupesh Kumar & Sanave Thomas 21-12, 22-20.
Women: 1-Saina Nehwal bt 2-Choo Wong Mew (Mas) 20-22, 21-14, 21-2; Doubles: Yao Lei/Mulia Sari Shinta (Sin) bt Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa 21-11, 9-21, 21-15.
Mixed doubles: Jwala Gutta/V. Diju bt Yao Lei/Triyachart Chayat (Sin) 23-21, 20-22, 21-7.