New Delhi: Saina Nehwal produced one of her finest performance in recent times to guide Indian eves to a 2-3 victory over Thailand and catapult the hosts to the top of Group Y in the Uber cup badminton tournament here on Tuesday.
Star shutters Saina and P V Sindhu notched up comfortable victories in the first two singles and then Commonwealh Games gold medalists pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa completed the drubbing with another gutsy win to put India 3-0 ahead at the Siri Fort Sports complex here.
However, PC Thulasi and the Saina-Sindhu combination lost the last two matches as Thailand registered two consolation wins to reduce the victory margin in the end. Back at the venue where she had won the Commonwealth Games gold, Saina enthralled the spectators with her array of shots and better court coverage to stave off the challenge from World champion Ratchanok Intanon 22-20 21-14 in the first singles to give India a brilliant start against Thailand.
Malaysia Grand Prix Gold winner, P V Sindhu then resisted determined fightback by Porntip Buranaprasertsuk from 11-14 to 19-19 in the first game to eventually prevail 21-19 21-14 in a ?minute match in the second singles to swell India?s lead to 2-0. 2011 World championship bronze medallist pair of Jwala and Ashwini, who recently won the bronze at Asian Championship last month, came up with another superb show to thrash Duanganong Aroonkesorn and Savitree Amitrapai 21-16 21-13 in a 33-minute doubles match here.
Playing the third singles, PC Thulasi, however, failed to get across Busanan Ongbumrungpan and went down 15-21 10-21 as Thailand logged their first points on board. Saina and Sindhu, then paired up for the first time and showed sparks of brilliance as they took a game away from the Thailand pair of Kunchala Voravichitchaikul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai before going down fighting 13-21 21-18 15-21 in a thrilling match.
Saina and Sindhu lacked coordination in the first game but they came back strongly in the second. Leading 11-7 in the second game, the duo kept the Thai players at bay and eventually roared back to contest. Saina and Sindhu started well in the decider and were 11-10 ahead at the interval but their experienced opponents slowly marched ahead and kept increasing the lead to eventually close the match comfortably.
Earlier, Saina dominated the proceedings from the start and was leading 11-8 at the break but Ratchanok relied on her deceptive wrist game to plot a fightback, as she caught up with the Indian at 12-12 and then moved neck and neck till 20-20.
However, the Thai girl faltered with her stroke at the nets and then Saina deceived her with a soft tap at the net to earn the bragging rights.
Saina came up with immaculately-timed smashes, drops and was equally good at the nets in the second game even as Ratchanok struggled with her strokes as she hit long and wide and found the nets too often. At the interval, Saina was 11-4 ahead and the script didn`t change after the break as the Indian came up with some bodyline and down the line smashes and deceptive slices to dominate the game.
In the end, Ratchanok gave Saina a cushion of six match points when she hit long. The Thai girl repeated the mistake once again as an emotional Saina let out a loud roar in relief. Among other teams, Japanese eves got the better of Malaysia to book their place in the Uber Cup quarter-finals, while their men`s team defeated Hong Kong 5-0 to make it to the last eight.
Danish men and women also reached the knockout stage. While the Danes defeated Germany 5-0 to join Japan in the Uber Cup from Group Z, their male counterpart hammered England with an identical margin to make it to the last eight in Thomas Cup in Group B.
Also making it to the last eight were Thailand and Indonesia in Thomas Cup from Group A and Korea and Indonesia in Uber Cup from Group X.