Jakarta: Saina Nehwal won a magnificent final at the Indonesia Open Superseries Premier on Sunday, saving two match points to beat All England champion Li Xuerui on Sunday. It was a stirring, come-from-behind effort that saw her get the better of Xuerui and triumph 13-21 22-20 21-19.
In the list of her wins, this might well stand as her toughest-ever title victory. Until the final, she had survived three three-set battles, and had spent over four hours on court. She was facing an opponent who was on a 30-match winning streak, and bidding for her fifth straight title.
Xuerui took off like a rocket, and the Indian looked dazed by the speed and attack of her rival. The Chinese world No.3, with her long reach, easily retrieved Saina’s best shots, and her own big smashes found little answer from the Indian. The first game was wrapped up in just 15 minutes.
The Indian world No.5 attempted a recovery in the second. She switched tactics, trying to prevent Xuerui from attacking the shuttle, and forced her into a parallel game. It was neck-and-neck all the way, until another down-the-line winner from Xuerui gave her two match points at 20-18.
Saina refused to buckle. She saved one match point by judging well on the baseline, and Xuerui netted the next serve. Saina’s own down-the-line smash gave her game point, which she converted when Xuerui netted another return.
The third game carried on from the second, a high-intensity battle of wits with neither player able to gain a decisive advantage. Finally, as it wore on, Saina went up 19-16 as Xuerui smashed marginally wide; the Chinese girl was able to pull back the advantage to 18-19 with a 217kmph smash.
Xuerui saved one match point with a dribble followed by a smash, but found the net at 19-20 to give Saina her most memorable victory. The match had taken an hour and four minutes.