Saina Nehwal ends the year on high note

Saina Nehwal celebrates after winning the Hong Kong Open against Shixian Wang (China).-XINHUA Saina Nehwal celebrates after winning the Hong Kong Open against Shixian Wang (China).

It was another feather in the cap for India's champion badminton player Saina Nehwal, who posted a remarkable come-from-behind victory — 15-21, 21-16, 21-17 — against Shixian Wang of China in the final of the Hong Kong Open Super Series on December 12.

Only recently, Saina was sulking following her disappointing performance in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, where she crashed out in the quarterfinals. But the World No. 4 picked herself up remarkably in Hong Kong and achieved the rare feat of winning all the finals she appeared in this year, starting with the Chennai Open and followed by the Singapore Open, the Indonesian Open, the Commonwealth Games and the Hong Kong Open.

Saina also became the first Indian player to win four Super Series titles.

“It is always a special feeling when you win a title beating a Chinese, and more so when she happened to be the one I lost to in the quarterfinals of the recent World Championship,” said a delighted Saina after her Hong Kong Open win.

“I don't think the Chinese are invincible anymore. But still to beat them you have to be at your best or else they can comeback strongly at you,” she said.

“It was one of the toughest games I had ever played and that is the reason I will remember this win for a long, long time,” explained Saina.

Saina also said that she was happy with her game — she came up with the right strokes at the right time under pressure while getting the better of Wang in the final.

“Definitely, I was a bit disappointed when I lost the first game. But I was not dispirited. I always had a feeling that one or two good points would help me back into the contest, and that is what happened,” Saina recalled.

“I knew that Wang will not make things easy for me even after I won the second game. The decider was expected to be close for the Chinese girl is too good a player to hand over the title on a platter,” the champion said.

“Honestly, my thoughts were never on the World No. 1 ranking. I always believe — and I reiterate that — it will follow if you keep winning the big events. Definitely, I am happy that I am getting closer to that coveted mark,” she said.

“The best part of the Hong Kong Open win was that I could wriggle out of crisis quite a few times. In a way, it was an event where I could exact revenge for the losses I suffered against Pui Yin Pip (in the Asian Games quarterfinals) and Wang (in the recent World Championship quarterfinals). It was a clear test of my temperament and I am happy that I passed it,” said Sania.

“I must thank Gopi Sir and other coaches like Bhaskar Sir (SAI coach Bhaskar Babu). I also thank my parents who were always a constant source of inspiration even after the Asian Games disappointment. They just kept telling me that even the best of athletes suffer shock defeats and that I should look ahead and not worry over what had happened. So, I took some lessons even from the defeats and tried to be a better player in the Hong Kong Open,” Saina explained.

V. V. Subrahmanyam