Indian badminton fans were treated to a historic double on Sunday afternoon as both Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth emerged victorious in the $700,000 China Open Super Series Premier. World No. 16 Kidambi Srikanth became the first Indian male shuttler to conquer a Super Series Premier crown beating the legendary Lin Dan in straight games. World No. 5 Nehwal started proceedings for India by beating youngster Akane Yamaguchi to capture her eighth career Super Series title.
Kidambi Srikanth captures maiden Super Series crown
Beating the five-time World Champion and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in his own backyard shows the class player Kidambri Srikanth is. 21-year-old Kidambi Srikanth exhibited both composure and determination from the beginning and succeeded finally in etching his name in record books.
Srikanth leads 11-7 at interval
Srikanth made sure that Lin Dan didn’t get a chance to to take a lead. He kept going for angular strokes and finishing the points with a powerful smash whenever he got an opportunity. Lin Dan could be seen taking some time to read Srikanth’s game and settle down in the match. By then the Indian had jumped to a 11-7 lead.
Srikanth clinches a close first game
As the players returned after the break, buoyed by a boisterous crowd, Lin Dan started playing more freely. The legendary Chinese started delaying the pace of the match which rattled Srikanth a bit. Dan inched closer and made it to 11-10. After a few superb rallies that strongly tested the flexibility of both the players, the illustrious Chinese went ahead 16-15. However, Kidambi Srikanth remained steady. As the match was poised at 19-19, Srikanth’s superb reflexes at the net helped him clinch the opening game with 21-19.
Tight battle in second game
The two players were engaged in a neck to neck battle in the second game. A few mistakes at the net dented Srikanth’s confidence a bit and tilted the balance in favour of Lin Dan. The Chinese went into the break with a slight edge at 11-10. Just when it looked like Srikanth’s fancied rival had found his touch again, the determined Indian came back and made it 14-14. Lin Dan once again smartly extended rallies to draw errors from Kidambi Srikanth and make it 15-15.
Srikanth seals historic win
Kidambi Srikanth then went on a little run of his own as Lin Dan started making some uncharacteristic errors. Soon Srikanth was on the cusp of history with four match points at 20-16. Even though Lin Dan saved one match point, another crucial error helped Srikanth seal the triumph 21-19, 21-17.
This is an amazing display of passion and hunger from the 21-year-old. Considering the fact that Kidambi Srikanth was battling meningitis just a few months back in July, this win underlines his never-say-die attitude.
Saina conquers Chinese
Saina Nehwal who sounded confident before the China Open backed up her words with a determined show against the junior world champion Akane Yamaguchi. The 17-year-old had been a giantkiller at this tournament, upsetting the second seed Wang Shixian and fifth seed Yeon Ju Bae.
Saina in attacking mode
With her attacking game, Saina ensured that the Japanese get few chances. Swift movement and angular strokes from the Indian kept the Japanese on the run. The big wins had surely taken a toll on Yamaguchi fitness and she looked fatigued and nervous. Saina Nehwal built a 8-5 lead and extended it to 11-7 at the midgame interval. She went on a trot of seven consecutive points to make it 15-7 before the Japanese could have another point in her favour.
Nehwal takes the opening game
The Olympic bronze medallist made a few uncharacteristic errors at the net that gifted a couple of points to the Japanese. Yet, her improved defensive skills came to her rescue and helped her seal the first game 21-12.
Yamaguchi puts pressure on Saina
Yamaguchi started the second game in an attacking mode. She speeded up her game thus taking time off Saina Nehwal. The tactic worked as Saina was forced into few errors. From 7-7, Yamaguchi took a slender lead of 11-9 at the interval. At 13-9, a long Hawk Eye call stalled her momentum and aided in Saina’s comeback. The Indian closed the gap to 11-13 and after a long rally the match was back on level terms at 14-14.
Nehwal saves game point to win
Yamaguchi had a game point at 20-19. Big champions always look for that one last push. Saina Nehwal too upped her intensity and claimed her first crown in China with a 21-12, 22-20 win. This is Saina’s third international title of the year, following victories at the Australian Open Super series and Syed Modi International Grand Prix gold. Seems like Saina’s new coach Vimal Kumar in Bangalore is working out for her.
This is probably one of the biggest achievements for Indian badminton. The magnitude of Srikanth’s win is huge. It will not only give him the necessary boost but will also embolden other rising stars and make them believe that such victories are possible! As for the shuttle queen Saina Nehwal, seems she is on the right track after a struggling 2013.