Dev S Sukumar
Basel: Saina Nehwal salvaged her early European season in the best way possible – by winning the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold on Sunday. Following a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of the prestigious All England Super Series Premier in the last fortnight, Saina fought her way to the Swiss title – on the way defeating her All England conqueror, Eriko Hirose, in the second round. However, Saina regretted her below-par performance at the All England and said the Swiss title “would never compensate”.
World No.4 and second seed Saina was favoured to win the final against world No.19 Sung Ji Hyun. But the last encounter between the two had been a tough affair – the Indian had prevailed in three games of the first round match at the Indonesian Open in 2010 – which would eventually be her first Super Series title victory.
On Sunday, the tough Korean hung on in the initial stages, keeping apace until 7-all, but from there the Indian surged ahead and was never threatened. The Korea was unable to mount much resistance in the second game, as Saina flew to leads of 7-2 and 18-11 before wrapping up the match.
“I am happy about this victory,” Saina said in an e-mail. “God helped me overcome the difficulties I had undergone in the last few days. The win here will never compensate the All England loss. I would regret that defeat always.
“I could have easily reached the final there. I was not really in the game that day. Like how I regret my Olympic failure I will always rue about the bad luck last week.”
The Swiss title was no cakewalk. She had to face a gutsy unknown, Sashina Vignes Waran of France, in the first round, and prevailed after a hard-fought first game. The second round was against Hirose, who had spoiled her All England dream. Saina lost the second game but took the third rather easily. After cruising past big Bulgarian opponent Petya Nedelcheva in the quarters, Saina had to shake off the gutsy Korean and fourth seed, Bae Youn Joo, after losing the second game. The final could not have been won more authoritatively.
The victory will give her 7,000 ranking points and will aid her quest to achieve the world No.1 ranking this year. This is her best result this year after her average performances at the Korean Open and All England.
Saina’s route to the title:
Final: bt Sung Ji Hyun (Kor) 21-13 21-14
Semis: bt 4-Bae Youn Joo (Kor) 21-19 13-21 21-14
Quarters: bt Petya Nedelcheva (Bul) 22-20 21-17
2nd round: bt Eriko Hirose (Jpn) 21-15 17-21 21-11
1st round: bt Sashina Vignes Waran (Fra) 23-21 21-9