New Delhi: India's badminton team ensured India won their 10th gold at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast beating Malaysia 3-1. Though, there were tough moments in the fourth match including Saina Nehwal and Sonia Cheah, the Indian came back strongly and won the fourth match convincingly to help India bring home the laurels. India also had a score to settle against the same opponents, who in 2010 have taken the gold at the Delhi Games.
India had won the first two games but lost the men's doubles tie and now the gold hopes rested on Saina Nehwal's shoulders. But because it was Saina Nehwal slated to the play the women's singles, there was no letting up. Saina might have taken some time to get warmed up, losing a few points early on, but she came back strong and pulled her weight on the Malaysian Sonia Cheah.
After having lagged behind 9-11 at the break, Saina collected 13 points and conceded only two to win the first game. The second game too saw a very similar script with the Malaysian staying neck and neck till the break. Saina led by just one point as she gave up two at the net. Though, Saina exploited the weakness in Cheah's game and made her to map the court a lot more often.
Cheah then took a medical timeout and that played on Saina's mind. After leading 12-11, she gave up four points to let Cheah take lead.
But then a long rally took place and Saina was made to work hard for that point. She did get that but her frailty at the net hurt her chances. Cheah went up 17-14.
Soon Saina got three back and made it 17-17. As opposed to her previous attempts at drop shot, this time Saina got them right and gained two points.
The net game remained the thorn in Saina's flesh as lost one point at 18-18 as her retrieve went high near the net and Cheah killed it to go one up. Next up, Saina equalled it but once again found the net trying to retrieve a drop. The Malaysian then upped her game and smashed her way to pull back the second game. India 1-1 Malaysia.
Saina's defensive play was becoming vulnerable. Though, she started the decider winning the first point through her judgement. Cheah wasn't ready to leave it on fate and continuously tested Saina around the court mixing up her smashes with cross-court deft touches.
Cheah tested Saina at the net, and as usual, the Indian had no answer to the way she made her to scamper up and down the court. Another strong area of Cheah was the way she played the overhead smash across the court.On the other hand, Saina would play that same stroke down the line. Later, Saina looked fatigued as her movement too suffered.
The game was poised for a nail-biting finish as both the opponents were playing neck and neck badminton. At 8-8, Cheah displayed a brilliant backhand drop which landed almost a zero angle cross court. Even Saina appreciated Cheah for her deftness.
But then Saina brought her A game back and used angles to stay in lead. India led 11-9 at the break in the third game. As soon as the lemon break got over, a different Saina was on display and like the first game, she picked up 6 points on the trot to lead 17-9. Cheah seemed to have surrendered mentally and it was just a matter of completing the formality now. Credit to Saina for having regrouped again and got 10 points on the trot to power India to its tenth gold in the Commonwealth Games.
Earlier, India began on a strong note, winning the first match -- mixed doubles -- in which senior India pro Ashwini Ponappa teamed up with Satwik Rankireddy. It was not a cakewalk unlike their previous matches in the campaign as the Malaysian pair of Peng Soon Chan and Liu Ying Goh offered tough resistance. Though, the Indians took the first game 21-14, the Malaysians roared back and took the second game 21-15. The Indians regrouped thereafter and showed a lot of character and dominated the final game 21-15 to give India 1-0 lead.
The second match was to be the most interesting as World No. 2 Kidambi Srikanth was to take on world champion Lee Chong Wei. But riding on form, Srikanth literally made short work of one of the world's most rated shuttler. Srikanth pocketed the first game in 22 minuted 21-17 while he was a notch better in the second. He took the second game 21-14 and finished the game in just 21 minutes. With his win, India inched closer to the team gold as they were 2-0 ahead in the final.
But when it looked that India will seal the game in the men's doubles game, the Malaysians rose to the occasion and took the first game 21-15 in a 17-minute affair. The Indians came back strongly in the following game and covered the court well. They were measured with their attack and made sure they improved their net game as well.
But by no means it was an easy game as despite having a three-point lead, the Malaysians were fighting back and reduced the lead to 16-14. It was all about holding their own and Indians made sure they kept piling pressure back on Malaysia. But Indians struggled with their defence and the Malaysian pair of V Shem Goh and Wee Kiong Tan exploited that chink in their armour.
From 16-14, Malaysia came back to take lead at 18-17. As usual India had no answer to their strong smashes. Also Indians were seen lobbing the shuttle a lot, attracting Malaysians to keep attacking.
The second game went to the wire as India rallied back to save two match points and made it 20-20. But the Malaysians wasted no time in sealing the match and collected two points to beat the Indian pair 22-20. India were leading the tie 2-1 but the gold had to be won after a hard-fought effort by Saina.