On a historic day for Indian sports, Saina Nehwal reached her maiden India Open Superseries final by dismissing World No. 37 Yui Hashimoto 21-15, 21-11 in 43 minutes. The Olympic bronze medallist earlier assured herself of the World No. 1 ranking when Spain’s Carolina Marin lost 19-21, 23-21, 20-22 to World No. 8 Ratchanok Intanon in the other women’s singles semi-final. Saina thus became the first Indian woman shuttler to be ranked World No. 1.
Dominant display by Saina Nehwal in semi-final
Saina Nehwal had lost her earlier encounter with Yui Hashimoto at the 2013 India Open. The Japanese started her match today on a confident note and surged ahead 6-4. But Saina Nehwal started engaging Hashimoto in long rallies which helped her to turn the tide in her favour.
Watched by India’s only other top-ranked badminton player Prakash Padukone, she levelled it at 7-7 and then jumped ahead to 11-8. As Hashimoto’s error count started increasing, chants of “Saina! Saina!” grew louder from the home crowd. Saina wrapped up the first game 21-15.
The second game was absolutely a one-way traffic as Hashimoto found no answers to Saina’s pace, power and accuracy. The Indian raced to a 12-2 lead and then quickly reached the finish line with 14 match points at 20-6.
The Japanese, though, made one last push and took five points on the trot. However, Saina Nehwal closed it out in 43 minutes.
Saina Nehwal to face Ratchanok Intanon in final
Next up for Saina Nehwal is former world champion Ratchanok Intanon. Saina holds a 5-3 head-to-head record over the shuttler from Thailand and it is going to be a mouth-watering contest between these two tomorrow. Saina Nehwal will be the more confident player going into the finale as her escalation to the World No. 1 spot will act as a major morale booster for the young Indian shuttle queen.