Indian Super Series finals: Saina Nehwal vs Ratchanok Intanon, Srikanth Kidambi vs Victor Axelsen - As it happened...
In a perfect day for the Indian badminton, Women's Singles new World No.1 Saina Nehwal first won her first Indian Super Series title defeating her Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon in straight sets, 21-16 21-14; then youngster Srikanth Kidambi topped it up with a thrilling three-set win over Dane Victor Axelsen 18-21 21-13 21-12 in front of a packed Siri Fort Sports Complex crowd in Delhi.
New Delhi: In a perfect day for the Indian badminton, Women's Singles new World No.1 Saina Nehwal first won her first Indian Super Series title defeating her Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon in straight sets, 21-16 21-14; then youngster Srikanth Kidambi topped it up with a thrilling three-set win over Dane Victor Axelsen 18-21 21-13 21-12 in front of a packed Siri Fort Sports Complex crowd in Delhi.
Men's Singles Final
Srikanth won the match 18-21 21-13 21-12. It is his second Super Series title after that famous win over legendary Lin Dan in China last year.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 21 - 12 Axelsen): 11 straight points from the Indian and make it a perfect day for the Indian badminton. The youngster produced a stunning comeback to win the last two sets after losing the first set and claim the Indian Open title.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 17 - 12 Axelsen): Frustration boiling over for the Dane. He just missed a challenge, then let a high flight missed in the hope of an easy point, then followed with an error at the net. And the Indian has won seven points on the trot and completely in control of the match.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 11 - 12 Axelsen): It's called the body blow. After setting up with a couple of cross-court drives, Srikanth killed the rally with a smashing overhead head, which was really traveling.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 10 - 11 Axelsen): Just after the time-out. Srikanth with a new weapon, got the first point to cut the lead to a single point.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 8 - 10 Axelsen): First challenge from the Indian and it returned with full marks thus overruling the line call from a cross-court smash on the left court of Axelsen.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 7 - 10 Axelsen): Despite seemingly controlling the net play, Srikanth is losing all the points from the extended relay.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 6 - 7 Axelsen): But the fight is on and Srikanth won a miraculous point, retrieving from the back of the body. The Dane did complained of body play, but the call stood in favour of the Indian.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 3 - 6 Axelsen): Another tight point. From a Srikanth overhead smash, Axelsen's return deflected from the net which forced the Indian's smash wide of the court.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 2 - 3 Axelsen): And a close call from the main judge, who adjudged a net flick from Srikanth foul, racquet touching the net.
THIRD SET (Srikanth 1 - 1 Axelsen): Amidst the boisterous call for winners, Srikanth won a tight point to share initial spoils in the third and deciding set.
SECOND SET (Axelsen 13 - 21 Srikanth): The young Indian played an exquisite brand of fast pace badminton to annihilate his opponent and won the second set to keep the title hopes alive. It's all down to the third set, as expected.
SECOND SET (Axelsen 11 - 13 Srikanth): A little period of fight back from the Dane. After trailing eight points, he has now closed the gap to two points.
SECOND SET (Axelsen 4 - 11 Srikanth): It's one way traffic at Sri Fort Complex with Srikanth producing some lightening quick smashes down the line, on both sides.
SECOND SET (Axelsen 3 - 5 Srikanth): Srikanth is taking the initiatives in the second set, and has gained a two point lead.
SECOND SET (Axelsen 1 - 1 Srikanth): Quick exchange of serves following two cross-court smashes of immense power.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 18 - 21 Axelsen): Srikanth's fight-back proved too little, and late as Axelsen won the first set.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 15 - 20 Axelsen): Sporting spirit, that's on full display at the Sri Fort Complex. Both the players engaged in a moment of jolly when the Dane failed to get up from a net play, with the Indian playing the lofted shuttle with an easy pus for point.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 12 - 15 Axelsen): Probably the longest relay of the day, mind you there have been four finals previous to this, and Srikanth won the point from a defensive play. The relay witnessed some of the best recoveries, bodies diving the whole length and quickly returning on feet to retrieve diagonal shots. Amazing.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 10 - 14 Axelsen): After the time-out, Axelsen produced a series of smashing overhead shots to capitulate the Indian. It seems Pulella Gopichand and Madhumita's words have little effect to Srikanth's game.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 10 - 11 Axelsen): Agility is the name of the game. Srikanth, who was a little while ago looking for answers is now asking all the right questions thanks to his brilliant court coverage.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 7 - 9 Axelsen): Axelsen requested a mop-up of the floor. The Dane almost twisted his ankle while reaching for a wild smash from Srikanth, which eventually went out of the play.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 5 - 7 Axelsen): Despite winning a net point with some good reading, Srikanth still trails the Dane. Axelsen is producing the goods from the baseline, dictating the relays with subtle changes of flight and pace.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 4 - 5 Axelsen): Axelsen has taken a complete control of the relays here. He has won three points and the Indian is under immense pressure this early in the match.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 4 - 2 Axelsen): Great response from the Dane to win one point, but Srikanth is in his elements. Win a close point at the nets.
FIRST SET (Srikanth 3 - 1 Axelsen): Nervous start from the Indian, lost the flight and crash his shot into the net. But soon regained his composure, winning three points on the trot.
TOSS: Srikanth won the Toss and will serve first. Remember the Swiss Open final 14 days ago, which the Indian won in three grueling sets. That was the only instance this two young turks met each other in their carerer.
Last event of the day about the start. Both Kidambi Srikanth and Viktor Axelsen are already in the court. If Srikanth win today, he will for the time will get himself in the race to Dubai ranking, and thus himself a chance to play the lucrative year-ender tournament.
Women's Singles Final
Saina gets her winner's medal from the former Union Minister P Chidambaram and hosts of other memorabilia.
SECOND SET (Saina 21 - 14 Intanon): Saina wins a Super Series title in India. History created. She won the match in 49 minutes. It's her ninth big title of the tour, which included three titles in Indonesia, one each in Singapore, Australia, Denmark, China and Hong Kong.
SECOND SET (Saina 20 - 14 Intanon): Playing, if at all it works, Saina would have already won the match, Her coach Madhumita is praying. But Saina probably wont require that, she is already on the match point with low drive.
SECOND SET (Saina 17 - 13 Intanon): A brilliant drop-shot from Intanon to get herself in the fight. And she is jubilant. But she will need much more than that to challenge Saina, who is probably playing her best badminton now.
SECOND SET (Saina 15 - 10 Intanon): Another unforced error from the Thai player to allow the Indian to break a flow of points. Intanon did just enough to reduce the gap to within four points, but a soft touch near the net proved too fibble for it too cross.
SECOND SET (Saina 14 - 8 Intanon): Intanon won two quick points to close the gap, but the Indian once again escape with some tricky play, with the last one going her way, thanks to a video replay.
SECOND SET (Saina 13 - 6 Intanon): A lucky call point for Saina. The shuttle just rolled over the tap, and won another point.
SECOND SET (Saina 11 - 6 Intanon): Brilliant recovery from Saina to break her opponent's flow. Then, the new World Number One consolidated her lead thanks to some sensible play in the nets.
SECOND SET (Saina 8 - 6 Intanon): Unlike the first set, the second set is turning out to be fairly competitive one with both the players going for the kill. And in the last couple exchanges, Intanon is surely dictating the terms.
SECOND SET (Saina 8 - 4 Intanon): A point each for the finalists following two long sets of relays.
SECOND SET (Saina 7 - 3 Intanon): Pity, another unforced error from Intanon. She was in a good position to at least extend the relay but her placement crashed into the net. Loose play.
SECOND SET (Saina 6 - 2 Intanon): Intanon, looking dejected at the turn of events, won her point thanks to an error from Saina. Then, she soon wasted a two-point winning spree with a misdirected long play.
SECOND SET (Saina 4 - 0 Intanon): Quick play from the Indian, to take a three point lead. A barrage of smashes helped her cause, and with a good judgment to let go a long flight.
SECOND SET (Saina 1 - 0 Intanon): Saina started the set with a point from her service, with a devastating cross-court smash after a 8-shot relay.
FIRST SET (Intanon16 - 21 Saina): A good read. Saina let off the long flight from Intanon and won the first set., despite an spirited fight from the Thai shuttler.
FIRST SET (Intanon 15 - 20 Saina): A little period of resistance from Intanon as Saina waits to convert the set point. Intanon has won three points on the trot.
FIRST SET (Intanon12 - 19 Saina): Another round of quick service changes. Legendary Prakash Pudukone was seen enjoying the exchanges, and Saina is cruising.
FIRST SET (Intanon11 - 18 Saina): After a long time, Intanon got her point. Saina was playing so well, even her stretching shots were landing at perfect positions.
FIRST SET (Intanon 10 - 15 Saina): Soon the lead has been extended to five with an unforced error from the Thai. At times, Inaton is trying too much to counter the fluency of Saina in the centre. But most of the time, she ended up playing an unforced error or two.
FIRST SET (Intanon 10 - 13 Saina): A relatively long relay to end the Intanon spree. A well-taken head smash from a loose release ended the relay and also the Thai swing.
FIRST SET (Intanon 9 - 12 Saina): Another inch-perfect dropping from the Thai player. She is forcing Saina to do little more running than required. Perfect game plan from the 20-year-old.
FIRST SET (Intanon 7 - 12 Saina): Deception at its best. Intanon had to cover the entire width of the court to be in the relay, then produced a cunningly deceptive drop shot, which Saina failed to reach to.
FIRST SET (Intanon 6 - 12 Saina): Soon after the break, Saina won the first point to take a seven-point lead. Then, she lost the flight of the shuttle, and crashed it into the net playing a sailing one.
FIRST SET (Intanon 5 - 11 Saina): First TIME-OUT, called by the Thai camp. Intanon is getting ice-packs, while Vimal Kumar all animated is coaching Saina.
FIRST SET (Intanon 5 - 10 Saina): Half point lead for Saina. The Indian shuttler ready to pounced on the errors, has won some lucky points too.
FIRST SET (Intanon 5 - 8 Saina): Madhumita Bisht is all pumped up after that mid-court smash from her pupil. It's a body blow, any any contact sports. But here, it went down as just another smash.
FIRST SET (Intanon 4 - 7 Saina): Intanon played the first aggressive shot of the match, and boy, what a cross-court smash. Saina had no response to it. Moments ago, Saina was looking in complete control of the exchanges, but in such pace games, momentum can swing any way, whichever...
FIRST SET (Intanon 3 - 5 Saina): But Intanon is keeping her cool, produced two calculated cross-court passes, with the last one misjudged by the Indian.
FIRST SET (Intanon 1 - 5 Saina): A subtle flick from Saina and Inaton's return from the back-line missed the court. Saina taking an early lead in the final.
FIRST SET (Intanon 1 - 4 Saina): Finally, a point for Intanon, unforced error at the net from Saina.
FIRST SET (Intanon 0 - 3 Saina): Another couple of points for the Indian. Signs of fatigue from her opponent, considering yesterday's marathon semis win over Marin.
FIRST SET (Intanon 0 - 1 Saina): A lofted service to start from the Thai and Saina forced an error at the net, won the opening point.
TOSS: Intanon won the toss, and will serve first. Saina got the pick her side, the left court.
Both the players are now in the court, changing to their match attires. If Saina wins, she will -- besides becoming the new World Number 1, will lead the pack in the Race to Dubai World Superseries Finals. The new rankings will be released next Thursday, and irrespective of today's match, the Indian has been assured of the top rank place. For Inaton, irrespective of the result, she will gained two places in the new rankings. She has been a former World Champion and former World Number 2.
And, the much awaited Saina-Inaton is next. In their last meeting, Saina got the better of Inaton in a Uber Cup match in 2014 in the very court. Inaton's three wins in eight matches against the Indian came in All England in 2013, Superseries Finals in 2012, Sudiram Cup in 2011 - all in straight sets.
In the Men's Doubles, third-seeded pair from China Biao Chai and Wei Hong got the better of seventh-seeded Danish team of Conrad-Petersen Mads and Pieler Kolding Mads in straights sets, 21-18, 21-14
Mixed Doubles Final
In the Mixed Doubles' final, second-ranked Chinese pair of Yixin Bao and Cheng Liu shocked the top-ranked Danish pair of Christinna Pedersen and Joachim Fischer Nielsen in a closely fought match, 21-19 21-19 in just under an hour's time. It's their first Super Series title in three final attempts.
Women's Doubles Final
Starting the final day's action, number one ranked Japanese pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi beat their Chinese opponents Ying Luo and Yu Luo to take the Women's Doubles title in straight sets, 21-19, 21-19.
Saina has a 5-3 head-to-head record against her Thai opponent, and with a boisterous home support, the ace Indian shuttler will start as the favourite. This year, the Olympic bronze medalist has retained the India Open Grand Prix Gold and became the first Indian woman to make the final of the All England Open Badminton Championships, eventually losing to Carolina Marin of Spain in the submit clash in three sets.
The Srikanth-Axelsen match-up is a repeat of the 2015 Swiss Open finals where the Indian turned victorious, in three grueling sets 21-15, 12-21 and 21-14. If the 22-year-old from Guntur manages beat his Danish opponent again, it will be his second title in a fortnight.
Yesterday, Saina beat her Japanese opponent Yui Hashimoto 21-15, 21-11 in the semis to book a place in the final, where she will play Thailand's Ratchanok Inaton. Inaton had beaten All England champion Carolina Marin in the first semis.
In the men's section, second ranked Srikanth humbled his Chinese opponent Xue Song 21-16, 21-13 in the second semis. He will play sixth-ranked Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in Sunday's final. Axelsen's semi-final opponent Tommy Sugiarto from Indonesia retired hurt in the second set.