Favourites Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth on Sunday gave double delight to Indian fans by clinching their maiden women and men's singles titles at the India Open Super Series badminton tournament.
Saina, the first Indian women shuttler to achieve world number one ranking, clinched her maiden title after notching up a dominating straight game victory against former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand while Srikanth had to toil hard to register a thrilling three-game win over sixth seed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the men's singles competition at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in Delhi.
While Saina, a bronze medalist at the London Olympics, played like a champion to get the better off Intanon 21-16, 21-14 in a relatively one-sided affair, world No. 4 Srikanth notched up his second successive title of the season by getting the better of sixth seed Axelsen 18-21, 21-13, 21-12 in a grueling contest.
The men's singles summit clash was a rematch of the Swiss Open final where Srikanth had defeated world No. 6 Axelsen to clinch his first title of the season. Saina, coming into the match with a 5-3 overall advantage over her rival, was not tested much as the Indian was prepared for Intanon's deceptive game. Saina encountered her rival with her better movements and powerful and accurate smashes to eventually wrest her second title of the season.
The girl from Hyderabad, who has been on a roll ever since her victory at the China Open, played like a champion as she anticipated her opponent's moves and caught her on the wrong foot during rallies. Intanon, seeded third, seemed to be affected by her marathon semifinal match against Carolina Marin of Spain which lasted for close to an hour and half on Saturday.
The energy-sapping clash seemed to have made her movements slow on the court as she struggled with her returns. The deafening cheers of the near-packed house crowd which chanted 'India India' and 'let's go Saina lets go', seemed to disrupt Intanon's concentration as nothing went for her in the match. Saina used her powerful smashes and rode on her opponent's unforced errors to lead 11-5 early on. She was up for the deceptive drops and half smashes which Intanon used to trouble the Indian. However, Saina didn't allow the Thai to threaten her as she anticipated well and retrieved everything that was thrown at her end. She closed the points with a smash whenever there was a chance.
Srikanth gave more joy to the home fans when he eked out a fighting three-game win over Axelsen, who had sent packing H S Prannoy in the quarterfinals. Second seeded Srikanth showed tremendous grit as he fought back from 3-7 down in the decider to edge out his opponent for the second time in as many encounters.
Saina scales to World No.1 ranking
Saina Nehwal on Saturday scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman shuttler to attain the number one spot in world rankings, reaffirming her status as the country's most consistent performer in the international circuit.
The 25-year-old zoomed to the top after her closest challenger for the position, Spain's Carolina Marin, lost in the India Open Super Series semifinal. Though the official rankings will be out only next week, Saina has been assured of her ascent to the top owing to the reigning world champion's 19-21, 23-21, 20-22 loss to third seed Thai Ratchanok Intanon. Saina thus becomes only the second Indian overall to be world number one after Prakash Padukone had the distinction of being the numero uno men's badminton player.