Saina’s love affair with Indonesia continues

Defeats Sayaka Sato to win the Indonesia Open Super Series, the third successive title she’s won after India Open and Singapore Open

Dev S Sukumar. Bangalore

June 27: Last year the Indonesians cheered for her because she vanquished the dreaded Chinese. This year they treated her as one of their own, and they would gladly give her Indonesian citizenship if they could, for they haven’t had a real champion since Mia Audina ten years ago – and she’d ditched them by becoming a Dutch citizen.
Saina Nehwal has a deep relationship with the emotional heartland of badminton. She has been to camps in Jakarta while still a junior, and she finally came of age last year by winning the coveted Indonesian Open Super Series. On Sunday, her victory in the final was not just a defence of her title – it completed a hat-trick of majors. Saina Nehwal has had an unbeaten run of 15 matches, during which she won the India Open GP Gold, the Singapore Open Super Series, and the Indonesia Open Super Series.

The hat-trick came after she outclassed a surprisingly feisty opponent in Sayaka Sato – the same girl she had beaten for her World Junior title in Pune in November 2008. But Sato, like Saina, has evolved since that mauling she received – and Saturday saw her trouble Saina with a rich mix of strokes until the Indian ground her out in three sets.
“She was a difficult player,” Saina said. “This time she came up with some different strokes. In the first set I was catching the shuttle high, but in the second she got more smashes in as I had to lift the shuttle.”
Saina went in as the clear favourite, for Sato’s career has not progressed at the same rate as the Indian. “I told her Sato’s going to attack and push the pace,” said her coach Gopichand before the final. “So Saina would have to counter-attack and be consistent.”
The Indian’s power told early in the match, as she established a 10-5 lead, but Sato took five points in a row and it turned into a tight battle. The left-hander’s clips from the back, and her dexterity at the net, were causing problems – and as the TV commentator appropriately put it: “Sato is like an annoying wasp – she will not go away. She’s persistent.”
Saina managed to edge through for the first game, but the second was a different story as she suddenly began to look vulnerable. Sato was opening up spaces in the forecourt with her sharp half-smashes and deceptive clips that left Saina scrambling. Midway through it looked like all the hard work of the last month was taking its toll, and Saina seemed to be conserving her energies for the third. That strategy paid off, and the Indian again turned on her power game, while Sato didn’t help her own cause by using the high serve that went long. There was a sense of inevitability as Saina notched up one point after another, until finally sealing the win.
“There has been a natural progression,” said Gopi. “She has improved in every department – strokes, fitness. She’s more confident now, more mature. We’ve kept it simple – use your brains, and work hard.”

Finals:
MS: Lee Chong Wei (Mas) bt Taufik Hidayat (Ina) 21-19 21-8
WS: Saina Nehwal (Ind) bt Sayaka Sato (Jap) 21-19 13-21 21-11
MD: Fang CM/ Lee SM (Tpe) bt Gun Woo/ Goo Kwon (Kor) 21-16 21-15
WD: Kim MJ/ Lee HJ (Kor) bt Cheng WH/ Chien Yu Chin (Tpe) 21-12 12-21 21-11
MXD: Robert Mateusiak/ Nadiezda Zieba (Pol) bt Hendra Setiawan (Ina)/ Anastasia Russkikh (Rus) 21-18 22-20

Major Achievements
Philippines Open 2006
Chinese Taipei GP Gold 2008
Indonesia Open Super Series 2009, 2010
Syed Modi Memorial GP 2009
India Open GP Gold 2010
Singapore Open Super Series 2010
Indonesia Open Super Series 2010

Upcoming Events:
Macau Open GP (Jul 27-Aug 1)
Chinese Taipei Open (Aug 4-7)
World Championships (Aug 23-29, Paris)
China Masters Super Series (Sept 14-19)
Japan Super Series (Sept 21-26)
Commonwealth Games (Oct 3-14, New Delhi)
Denmark Super Series (Oct 26-31)
Asian Games (Nov 13-21)

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About badmintonmania

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the Indian in Thoreau's Walden who makes cane baskets and is surprised nobody wants them. A. was talking about discipline when she said: "But Dev, if you want to move ahead in life, you'll have to be like that," and she may as well have defined everything else for me. I've played the low percentage game for too long to believe there's anything in it but the romance; the odds keep getting jacked up higher and higher; and you may be a good Idealist but a worse Fool.
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