On a roll

Champion stuff… Saina Nehwal kisses her medal on the podium after defeating Sayaka Sato in the final of the Indonesian Open Super Series in Jakarta.-AP

Saina Nehwal demonstrated her growing stature in world badminton with a brilliant display in crunch time to down a fighting Sayaka Sato of Japan 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 and successfully defend her title at the Indonesian Open Super Series Championship in Jakarta on June 27.

It was by all means a terrific performance from the World No. 3 who had earlier won the Indian Open Grand Prix (in Chennai) and the Singapore Open Super Series.

Playing against Sato, ranked No. 26 in the world, Saina was expected to have an easy outing. But the Japanese proved to be a surprise packet, playing an attacking game and also engaging the Indian in long rallies. And that was the phase when Saina's defence cracked. “Yes, her range of strokes was a great improvement from the last time I saw her. She really played well in the second game,” admitted Saina.

However, to her credit, Saina overcame the draught factor that had apparently upset her rhythm in the second game and came up with a good mix of delectable net dribbles and awesome forehand smashes. Her strategy of slowing down the pace of the game with net-play enabled Saina to gain the upper hand against Sato whom she had beaten in the final of the World Junior Championship in Pune in 2008.

“It is a fantastic feat by any standards. Not very often does one see an Indian from any sport win three international titles. This is a great day for Indian sport. It's a reminder of her growing stature in world circuit,” said Saina's mentor and Chief National coach Pullela Gopi Chand.

Saina's father, Dr. Harvir Singh, struggled to control his emotions while watching his daughter's winning moments live on TV at his residence in the company of his wife Usha Rani. “She has done us and the country proud by the grace of God,” he said. He then thanked the entire coaching staff, friends and fellow players at the Gopi Academy for their support to Saina.

V. V. Subrahmanyam