NAGPUR: Form and rankings went for a toss as Sania Nehwal and HS Prannoy stunned hot favourites PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth to emerge champions in the 82nd Senior National Badminton Championship here on Wednesday. The packed stadium with around ten thousand spectators at the Divisional Sports Complex witnessed some spectacular badminton from the country’s premier shuttlers which kept them on the edge of their seats till the last point of the week-long tournament.
The dream summit clash between Saina and Sindhu lived up to expectations with both the players slugging it out for each point resulting in long and pulsating rallies. Saina, seeded second, proved a point or two to her detractors by upsetting top seed Sindhu 21-17, 27-25 in 54 minutes to clinch her third title. The 27-year-old thus maintained her perfect record in the Nationals with three titles in as many appearances.
Incidentally, she marked her comeback to the Nationals after a gap of almost ten years with the crown. As a teenager, she had triumphed at Goa in 2008 where she had defended the title she had won for the first time at Patna in 2007. Saina was fully fired up while taking on Sindhu as she made swift movements to jump to a comfortable lead in the first game. Besides excellent court coverage, the world No. 11 executed several bodyline smashes which Sindhu found too hot to handle. Sindhu reduced the deficit in the end but could not stop Saina pocketing the first game at 21-17.
Stunned by the reversal, Sindhu bounced back gallantly in the second game. Although the scores were almost equal at the start, Sindhu surged ahead by four points and looked set to restore the parity. However, Saina was in no mood to let it go. She fought back like a true fighter and saved a game point to stop Sindhu. Sindhu too was equally determined to take the match into the decider. After six deuces, Saina finally managed to convert her sixth match point.
At 26-25, both the players were engaged in another long rally, keeping the entire crowd breathless. After around twenty strokes, Sindhu failed to return one of Saina’s sharp half-shashes and hit the shuttle in the net as Saina punched the air in jubilation. Saina thanked her support staff and coach Pullela Gopichand for the turnaround in her fortunes. “I am surprised with the way I played today. I moved well and picked Sindhu’s difficult shots. It was a great match and I am glad that I could finish it off in two games. I would like to thank all the support staff and Gopi Sir for working hard on me in the last couple of months,” an elated Saina told TOI after the final.
Earlier, the men’s singles final between Srikanth and Prannoy also saw a big upset. Second seeded Prannoy edged out top seed and world No. 2 Srikanth 21-15, 16-21, 21-7 in a battle which lasted 50 minutes. It was a special moment for Prannoy as he had never won any National title in any age group. Prannoy celebrated his first entry into the final in style by overcoming the stiff challenge from his regular practice partner. The Kerala youngster also avenged his defeat to Srikanth in the semifinal of the French Open Super Series a few days back.
Men’s singles: 2-HS Prannoy bt K Srikanth 21-15, 16-21, 21-7.
Women’s singles: 2-Saina Nehwal bt 1-PV Sindhu 21-17, 27-25.
Men’s doubles: 2-Manu Attri-B Sumeeth Reddy bt 1-Satwik Sai Raj-Chirag Shetty 15-21, 22-20, 25-23.
Women’s doubles: 1-N Sikki Reddy-Ashwini Ponnappa bt Sanyogita Ghorpade-Prajakta Sawant 21-14, 21-14.
Mixed doubles: 2-Satwik Sai Raj-Ashwini Ponnappa bt 1-Pranaav Jerry Chopra-N Sikki Reddy 21-9, 20-22, 21-17.