Mumbai: Experience does matter. And Saina Nehwal on Saturday taught younger compatriot PV Sindhu a lesson or two as she romped to a 21-15, 21-7 victory in the second singles of the final of the inaugural Indian Badminton League, being played at the NSCI’s newly constructed air-conditioned courts, here, on Saturday.
As they parted with a rather cold handshake at the nets, the two shining stars of Indian badminton, both products of the Pullela Gopichand Academy, left no doubt in the mind of the fans as to who’s the better player at the moment.
The London Olympics bronze medallist, Saina, won more hearts as she gave away her racket to a young fan who stood throughout the match holding a banner saying: “Saina. I want your winning racket.”
World No. 4 Saina, the icon player for Hyderabad Hotshots, helped her team draw level at 1-1, after K Srikanth had given Awadhe Warriors the initial lead when he defeated S Tanongsak 21-12, 21-20 in the opening singles of the final encounter.
The Saina-Sindhu match was touted to be a clash of the titans, but in the end it turned out to be a one-sided affair with Sindhu giving in meekly.
Saina almost obliterated the advantage Sindhu should have had with a better reach — being much taller than her senior city mate — with precision bodyline smashes. She dominated the match with power.
The first game saw her rule with powerful smashes and well-controlled drop shots and flicks.
She targetted Sindhu’s body with ominous results and the younger challenger, ranked No. 10 in the world, had no answer as Saina raced to a 21-15 win.
Her complete domination must have chipped away at Sindhu’s confidence.
Whatever little fight she put up in the first game was completely absent in the second, where she committed one mistake after the other, handing Saina point after point.
So sure was Saina of getting the better of Sindhu that at 8-1 in the second game, when she misjudged a Sindhu flighted shot to lose a point (8-2), she broke into a smile.
Till then, her total focus on the match was evident as she played on with a grim look, even as Sindhu started caving in.
After the match, a smiling Saina thanked her fans. “I have been very lucky in this tournament. Am very happy to win. I thank my fans who supported me throughout the tournament,” she said.
Her job done, she said she hoped that her teammates ensured victory in the final and wanted them to give 100 per cent.
During the presentation ceremony Sindhu said, “First of all, I would like to congratulate Hyderabad Hotshots for their win. I am happy that we reached the finals.
“This itself is a big achievement. But, we are taking things in our stride. Things like these happen in sports."
Saina maintained a lead throughout the match. At the first break of the first game, she led 7-3. Later in the game, Sindhu raised faint hopes of revival as she won three points in a row to take the score to 12-14. But Saina was in no mood to relent and raced to a 21-15 win.
The second was even more lopsided with Sindhu’s game being peppered with unforced errors. Saina led 7-1 in the first break, and didn’t find any difficulty in extending her lead steadily to wrap up the game at 21-7.
The match lasted a mere 37 minutes. Saturday’s win meant Saina has won both matches the two have played so far. The first time they met was at the IBL itself, in the league phase, which Saina won 21-19, 21-8 on Independence Day.