India got off to a resounding start at the BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals with both Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth registering wins at the elite event on Wednesday. It was the World No. 4 Saina Nehwal who first put up a confident display at the Hamdan Sports Complex to stun the second-ranked Shixian Wang 21-17, 21-18 in 58 minutes. Men’s singles World No. 8 Kidambi Srikanth then notched up India’s second win of the day by dismissing Kento Momota 15-21, 21-16, 21-10 in an hour-long battle.
Saina Nehwal starts on an impressive note
It was a thoroughly dominating show from the Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal at the World Superseries Finals. If her China Open win had provided ample evidence that her work with new coach Vimal Kumar is going in the right direction, then her performance in Dubai validated it further.
Improved net game from Saina
Saina’s movement on the court looked to have improved and there was a new spring in her steps. She showed an urge to go to the net to finish off the points, something that was missing earlier. With a newfound confidence and gusto, she came with a proper strategy to disrupt the rhythm of Shixian Wang who had beaten her the last two times.
The boisterous crowd at Dubai only helped Saina further. Constant chants of ‘India, India’ and placards of ‘India’s wonder girl’ made it feel like the tournament was being staged in India!
Saina seals first game
It was a neck-to-neck affair from the start. The former World No. 1 Shixian Wang was the first to take a slender lead at 9-7 after breaking away from 7-7.
Down 8-10, the India No. 1 Nehwal began accelerating the pace of her strokes that disrupted Shixian’s normal rhythm. Aided by powerful smashes, Saina moved the Chinese around the court and went on a trot of ten straight points.
The Chinese finally interrupted Nehwal’s run at 11-18 by smartly lowering the height of the shuttle. The tactic worked and she began a mini comeback of her own. With some nice variation that threw Saina off balance, she made the difference just three points before the Indian slammed shut the first game 21-17.
Nehwal comes back to pocket second game
The initial stage of the second game lacked the sharpness that Saina had displayed in the opening game. That allowed her illustrious rival to inch ahead 5-3 and then 9-6.
But Nehwal who had reached the final of this prestigious event in 2011, soon got a chance to level things. Egged on by the vociferous crowd, she roared back into contention as the accuracy from Shixian’s shots went missing. As the net errors from the Chinese mounted, Saina went ahead 14-11 and then 18-14.
Nehwal’s effortless movement and her fantastic net play threw the Chinese off guard. As Shixian struggled for consistency, Saina soared higher to gain four match points.
Two match points were erased by virtue of some superb defensive play from Shixian and also an error from Saina. But on the very next point, the Chinese dumped a smash into the net which sealed the victory for Saina Nehwal.
Kidambi Srikanth registers a comeback win
In a late match, China Open men’s singles champion Kidambi Srikanth overcame a slow start to beat Kento Momota of Japan 15-21, 21-16, 21-10. The World No. 8 Srikanth was points away from defeat as he was trailing his Japanese opponent 15-21, 15-16.
But the 21-year-old Hyderabadi broke off from there to clinch the second game 21-16 and take the match to a decider. It was a similar scenario initially in the deciding game as the Indian fell back once again to 4-7. But an aggressive approach coupled with errors from the World No. 15 Momota helped Srikanth wrap up the victory in one hour.
In men’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth next faces World No. 5 Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia on Thursday. In women’s singles, Saina Nehwal takes on World No. 5 Ji Hyun Sung of Korea.