Super Saina claims gold
With 26 gold, 20 silver and as many bronze medals, India finish third at CWG
Gold Coast: Saina Nehwal's aggression and intensity blew away top seed PV Sindhu as the former took the women's singles Commonwealth Games gold but K. Srikanth and the debutant men's doubles pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty settled for silver medals on the final day of the event here on Sunday.
In a fine contest, Saina won 21-18 23-21. The triumph marked a remarkable end to her CWG campaign in this edition. She was the pillar of India's gold-winning campaign in the team championship earlier, playing every one of the singles matches due to Sindhu's ankle injury.
However, in men's singles, world No.1 Srikanth let slip a strong start to lose 19-21, 21-14, 21-14 to Malaysian icon Lee Chong Wei.
Also ending second were Satwik and Chirag, who went down to Rio Olympics bronze medallist Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge of England 21-13, 21-16 in a 39-minute contest. Overall, India signed off with their best-ever haul - two gold, three silver and a bronze - in the badminton competition.
The highlight of the day was, of course, the Saina-Sindhu clash, which lived up to the hype with the former world No 1, especially, bringing her A game to the court. The brute force of Sindhu's smashes was something that Saina found hard to deal with. On the other hand, Sindhu found it tough to adjust to the delicate placement of strokes by Saina, who took the pace off the shuttle by attacking the net.
The strategy worked quite well for the London Olympics bronze-medallist and she raced to a 9-4 lead. As the gap widened, Saina's command on the baseline also improved. The contrasting styles of the two shuttlers made for an exhilarating contest.
A telling image of the opening game was when Sindhu was brought to her knees, trying to return a smash that didn't really have any power in it but was just placed perfectly on the left corner.
"It was a neck-to-neck game. Sindhu is tall, she has longer legs and covers the court better than me, I have to run here and there," the second-seeded Saina said after the match.
Sindhu, on the other hand, said: "I was completely fine, so nothing to complain. I gave my best. It was a good week for me. Maybe today was not my day," she said.
Next one in for India was Srikanth, who had beaten the Lee in the team championships final earlier in the Games, but the former world No. 1 rallied for a 19-21, 21-14, 21-14 triumph for his third CWG gold.
A decade older than the Indian, Lee kept his best for the last, showing off the legendary reflexes that have earned him cult status in international badminton, in the deciding third game. "I started well but I made too many mistakes in my defence. I gave him that early lead which I should have avoided," Srikanth said.
"He played really well in the second and third set. The first set was quite close. In the third set I really should not have given him that lead. He just played much better."
Similar was the story of Satwik and Chirag, who lost to Ellis and Langridge. "We are very disappointed. We hoped the tactics that we used, the things we wanted to apply, would count on the scoreboard, but we couldn't do that so we're a bit disappointed," Chirag said.