Gold Coast: Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal defeated compatriot PV Sindhu in straight games to win the women's singles title at the 21st Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Gold Coast on Sunday. Saina displayed superb form and her famous fighting abilities to clinch a 21-18, 23-21 victory in the high-pressure match that lasted an hour to bag India's 26th gold medal of the Games.
Saina dominated throughout the match. While Saina had some trouble dealing with the brute force of Sindhu's smashes, the latter found it tough to adjust to the delicate placement of her senior's strokes. The strategy worked quite well for the London Olympics bronze-medallist and she raced to an 9-4 lead. As the gap widened, Saina's command on the baseline also improved. The two contrasting styles of the two shuttlers made for an exhilarating contest.
Sindhu struggled to control the power she put on her shots, losing at least four points for pushing the shuttle outside and trailed 6-11 at the lemon break. Sindhu came back strongly after the break and narrowed the gap a bit but the drift-factor affected her strokeplay way more than Saina, who also seemed the more pumped up of the two, grunting quite a bit after every point won.
Sindhu found her bearings after Saina had taken a 20-14 lead and closed it 18-20 but Saina brought her own brute force to fore with a smash targeting Sindhu's body which was simply unreturnable. Saina claimed the opening game 21-18 in 23 minutes. The second game followed a similar tangent and despite having the more tired set of legs, Saina was a delight with her trademark angled smashes. But to Sindhu's credit, she too exhibited a better command on her smashes and improved considerably court-coverage to take a 9-7 lead, which she widened to 13-8 after the break.
Sindhu led 19-16 at one stage but a 64-stroke rally to narrow it to 18-19 brought Saina right back and she equalised at 19-19. However, Sindhu edged ahead for a 20-19 lead and a game point. The see-saw battle continued when Sindhu hit one out to give Saina the equalising point yet again. This time, it was Saina who got the championship point when Sindhu struck a return out. The lady, who looked the hungrier of the two all through, was surprisingly late in picking one up as Sindhu made it 21-21. But Saina was back in lead with a cross-court smash that Sindhu just could not reach. Serving for the gold, Saina forced a wide stroke from Sindhu and then let out a scream to celebrate the triumph.
With this Gold, Saina has become the first Indian player to win Singles Gold twice at the Commonwealth Games. She had earlier won the title at CWG in 2010. The 2010 Gold medallist and the 2014 bronze medallist Sindhu had clashed at the Senior National championship finals last November with the former having the last laugh after a gruelling match.
With these two medals by the Indian shuttlers, the Indian medals tally at the CWG stands at 62 with 26 Gold, 17 Silver and 19 Bronze medals.
(With PTI inputs)