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India stun Thailand, enter quarters

New Delhi: It was a night of sheer joy for Indian fans at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here on Tuesday, as Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu led India to a stunning 3-2 win over mighty Thailand in their concluding Group C Uber Cup tie.

The victory not only helped India top the group, but also enhanced their chances of going further ahead in the championship. As group toppers, they may now avoid running into stronger opponents like China or Korea when the draw for the quarter-finals is made on Wednesday.

The good start, once again, was provided by Saina. Playing against the world champion and world No. 4 Ratchanok Intanon, the Hyderabad girl put up a dazzling show to win 22-20, 21-14.

Once Saina completed her mission, the home team went from strength to strength. In the second singles, PV Sindhu came out all guns blazing to beat world No. 9 Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 21-19, 21-14 in only 37 minutes.

Then Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa completed the job at hand, defeating Duanganong Aaoonkesorn and Savitree Amitrapai 21-16, 21-13 to give India the 3-0 unbeatable lead.

In fact, so committed were Saina and Sindhu that they even agreed to play the doubles in the fifth rubber of the tie. “It was decided in the team meeting that we should go all out for a win here. We played as partners in the camp… So it was not a difficult task,” said Sindhu. The duo, however, lost to Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai 12-21, 21-18, 15-21.

All said and done, the focus remained firmly on Saina and her extraordinary comeback on Tuesday night, after a series of lowly performances this year.

Playing against the Thai teenage sensation, Saina looked determined and played an aggressive game.

So elated was the Olympic bronze medallist with her achievement that she threw her racket towards the fans before being hugged warmly by her coach Pullela Gopichand.

“I still can’t believe that I have beaten the world No. 4… Didn’t play so well in recent times,” said Saina after the match. “I hope to continue in the same manner in the next round… Yes, I am very happy.”

Quite a few unfavourable results in 2014 had certainly taken a toll on Saina’s confidence. It was evident when she said: “Winning the first game showed my confidence was still there. The strokes and better movements made the difference. The first game was crucial.

“I just wanted to give my best, I somehow wanted to get that feeling of beating top players. I know how hard I worked for this,” said the world No. 8.

“It was Saina who provided us with the right momentum,” pointed out Jwala after her doubles victory.

“As the hosts, we were geared up to give our best against Thailand. But the way Saina played today was amazing. She was at her best.”

India’s PC Thulasi lost to Busanan Ongbunrumgpan 15-21, 10-21 in the fourth rubber.