In the most anticipated contest between the third and fourth ranked players of the world, the near capacity crowd at Gachibowli witnessed a thrilling and engaging battle between two women at the top of their game. Eventually, Saina clinched a narrow 21-11, 19-21, 11-8 victory to give the Hotshots a commanding 2-0 lead in the first semi-finals of the first edition of the Indian Badminton League.
Seeking to build on the platform laid by Ajay Jayaram, Saina entered the arena to a raucous reception. She has been treated like a rock star through this entire event and the local fans in Hyderabad have added to the din by lending it the might of their vocal chords.
Schenk saved a couple of match points with some precise placement but at the third time of asking, Saina made the most of the rising tide of support inside the arena to deceive and tease her opponent with an intelligent kill from midcourt and take the first game.
After winning five straight points at the start of the second, Saina stemmed her own run when she drove straight into the net to allow Schenk to 4-5. Schenk won the next point striking into the midriff of her opponent and cramping her for space. The next point though was one of the best points of the first edition of the IBL. In probably the longest rally of the event, Saina and Schenk engaged in an endless rally that culminated in Saina hitting long to give her opponent the hard earned point.
Despite losing the energy sapping point, Saina constructed another successful run of points – winning six in a row to take control of the match at 11-6. Saina gained a six point cushion by the time the players took a short break at 14-8. When the players resumed, Schenk came out determined to make a contest.
But Saina won four of the next seven points to get within three points of snatching the match from her 30 year old opponent. Just when the end game seemed near, the experienced German called on her A game to make a remarkable comeback to wipe out a seven point deficit and bring herself right back into the match.
Down match point, after dominating much of the game, Saina sent the shuttle wide off Juliane’s backhand side to help the German take the second game. The start of the third game was an even duel between two well matched players. At 4-4, it was difficult to pick a winner of this close contest.
Saina found one last burst of energy to gain valuable ground over her tiring opponent as she reeled off three points on the run to take a 7-4 lead. The icon player of the Hotshots team retained a three point lead in the shortened third game as she inched closer to victory at 9-6.
Saina reached match point with a feathery dribble at the net, going up 10-6 over an increasingly desperate Schenk. The wily German sought to fight back getting to within two from Saina when the Indian returned a dipping serve wide. Saina though averted any further drama when she struck a powerful smash to the backhand of Schenk to clinch the second point for the dominant Hyderabad Hotshots team.Published 28 Aug 2013, 22:20 IST