Dubai, Dec 17: Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal dished out a dominating performance to post a straight-game win over two-time All England Champion Shixian Wang of China and start her campaign on a positive note at the season-ending BWF's World Super Series badminton final, here today.
A 2011 finalist, Saina showed great temperament and good repertoire of strokes to tame the former World No.1 Shixian, who had beaten the Indian four times in their last five meetings. The China Open winner, Saina prevailed 21-17, 21-18 over Shixian in a gruelling women's singles match that lasted little less than an hour at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
Coming into the match, Saina held a 5-5 record against Shixian and kept the Chinese on a tight lease right from the start and the result was an intense battle of nerves. The intensity of the clash was palpable as Saina produced a fast-paced game and engaged Shixian in rallies which drained out the Chinese.
After a close fight till 7-7, Shixian picked up a couple of points at the deep backhand corner and forecourt of Saina to open up a slender 10-8 lead. The Indian, however, didn't panic and gave a brilliant account of her temperament and preparation as she reeled off 10 straight points to move to 18-10.
Shixian grabbed three points before Saina produced an accurate smash which was initially called out but a video referral challenge ensured she got the crucial point. Shixian then handed the game point chance to Saina when she hit wide.
Error in judgement
The Indian had a chance to close it next but she hit wide. Shixian then produced a clever shot and exploited Saina's back hand to grab two more points. Saina then handed over another point to Shixian when she made a judgement error at the baseline.
But Shixian hit long next after an intense rally as Saina earned the bragging right. The second game started on a similar note as the lead exchanged hands very frequently with both the players engaging in longer rallies and pushing the other to commit errors. There was not much to differentiate between the two and it boiled down to accuracy in strokes.
After a slender 2-0 lead, Saina saw Shixian surge ahead to 8-4. But egged on by the crowd, who chanted 'Saina Saina' and 'India India', Saina erased the deficit and clawed back at 9-9 with Shixian finding the net. Saina did miss a point after committing a service error but the Indian moved into the interval with her head held high, leading 11-10.
Winning start for Kidambi Srikanth
The Indian showed good anticipation and kept sending the shuttle back to her opponent's court, forcing Shixian to commit an error. Her ploy reaped her dividends as Saina lead 14-11 after a point. Saina pounced on each opportunity, gaining points with her sharp net play and from the unforced errors committed by the Chinese.
As the match waned, mistakes cropped in Shixian's game as Saina lead 18-14. Shixian also played some immaculate shots to keep breathing down Saina's neck but the Indian soon hit a body smash and then produced a deceiving block at the net to move to a healthy four-match point advantage.
The Chinese erased two match point after Saina tapped one wide and then failed to breach Shixian's defence but with her cross court return getting buried at the nets, it was celebration for the Indian.
Later, the highest-ranked Indian male shuttler, Kidambi Srikanth, then had a tough outing against Kento Momota of Japan but the sixth-seeded player overturned a one-game deficit to win 15-21, 21-16, 21-10. Srikanth, 21, who was a year older than his Japanese opponent, started off lazily to lose the first game but soon got the grip. If the second game was fought hard then by the third Srikanth moved like a well-oiled machine to dispatch the Japanese.