K. Keerthivasan

PATNA: She moves with measured strides. She hits the shuttle flat with power and panache, straining every sinew. There aren't many players who can play quite like Saina Nehwal in India. In the domestic circuit, women are not used to her pace and style of play. Junior National champion Aditi Mutatkar (PSPB) found the speed at which Saina (PSPB) played quite unnerving in the women's final of the BSNL senior National badminton championship at the Secretariat Sports Club here on Sunday. Her best was not enough as Saina, the top seed, raced to a 21-19, 21-16 to clinch her maiden women's singles title from three successive finals.

A deceptive player, Aditi fought back from being down 1-7 in the first game to take the lead 13-12 when Saina netted a return. Aditi matched Saina at the net and from the baseline with some delicate drops.

Initially, she created problems and was dominating the rallies. But once Saina started to get her drops and overhead smashes going, Aditi had no choice but to relent. When Saina is set, it's next to impossible to even contemplate defeating her. That's exactly what happened in the second game.

Keeping cool

"This time I was playing under pressure. In the rush to win, I committed a lot of mistakes. Later I told myself to keep my cool and it worked," said the 17-year-old. Chetan Anand (PSPB) has been consistent right through the Open Nationals. Barring the loss of one game to Ajay Jayaram, he has been literally dictating terms.

His choice of shots and his overall fitness have been of relatively high standard. Against Anand Pawar (Air India) in the men's final, Chetan proved to be the better player at the net and from the backcourt to emerge a deserving 21-18, 21-17 winner.

"I prepared for the Nationals a good one-and-a-half months in advance. I didn't play tournaments during the tournament. I am happy with the way I played throughout. I trained hard with SM Arif Sir and Govardhan Reddy and it paid off," said Chetan, who last won the title in Hyderabad in 2004.

It was not that Anand Pawar failed to rise to the occasion. It was just that Chetan hardly allowed Anand any leeway. Anything remotely short, Chetan was doubly quick to rush to the net and finish the point.

In the second game, once Anand changed racquet when trailing 8-5, he simply wilted.

Five-in-a-row

The women's pair of Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurien (PSPB) has ruled the double scene for the last six years. With the exception of the 2002 Lucknow Nationals, the duo has been winning regularly, a run that started in the 2001 Jaipur Nationals.

It was a hat-trick of National titles for the men's doubles combination of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas (PSPB).

The men's singles champion received Rs. 27,600 while the women's winner got Rs. 23,800.

Lalu Prasad, Union Minister for Railways, gave away the prizes.

The results (finals):

Women: singles: Saina Nehwal (PSPB) bt Aditi Mutatkar (PSPB) 21-19, 21-16.; doubles: Jwala Gutta/Shruti Kurien (PSPB) bt B.R. Meenakshi (PSPB)/Aparna Balan (Ker) 21-17, 21-11.

Men: singles: Chetan Anand (PSPB) bt Anand Pawar (AI) 21-18, 21-17; doubles: Rupesh Kumar/Sanave Thomas (PSPB) bt V. Diju (PSPB)/JBS Vidyadhar (AP) 21-9, 21-19.

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