SAINA NEHWAL beat PV Sindhu in straight games in the final to retain her women’s singles crown at the 83rd Senior Badminton Nationals in Guwahati last Saturday (17).

Nehwal, who won the title in 2006, 2007 and 2018, used her powerful smashes to register a 21-18 21-15 win against two-time champion Sindhu.

“It was a good match and both of us played really well. It is a great feeling to win the nationals in such an atmosphere,” said Nehwal, who has lost to Sindhu only once in international events (India Open 2017).

“Sindhu has been playing at the highest level for some time and she is a very tough opponent. It was not a simple match, there were tough rallies.”

Nehwal, who beat Sindhu in the Commonwealth Games final last year, had also defeated her at the 2018 Nationals final in Nagpur. While Nehwal used her trademark smashes to create openings, Sindhu lacked precision, hit too many mid-court returns, and misjudged the shuttle at the back of the court to concede points on multiple occasions.

Nehwal’s unforced errors initially cost her three points but she found her way to make it 11-10 at the changeover. She continued to dictate the pace, while Sindhu hit wide or hit the net to allow her opponent to stretch the lead.

With Nehwal leading 18-15, the match was stopped due to an issue with the lighting. On resumption, Sindhu played a smash and drop to reduce the deficit but Nehwal earned three game points with powerful smashes and sealed it with another after Sindhu saved one.

At 3-3 in the second game, Nehwal hit the net twice but soon clawed back to lead 11-9 at the break. Errors continued to creep in Sindhu’s game as Nehwal saw it through comfortably in the end.

Earlier, Sourabh Verma completed a hat-trick of titles, claiming the men’s singles crown by
defeating young Lakshya Sen in straight games. It was the 26-year- old’s second win against 17-year-old Lakshya at the senior Nationals – he had beaten Lakshya, then 15, in February 2017.

“Winning the nationals for the first time (in 2011) was special but this time it is also a great feeling. Lakshya is improving and you have to be alert against him.”