Saina, Sindhu end 36-year wait
Jakarta, auguSt 26
Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu knew they were about to do something special on Sunday. But they were not sure about the exact nature of the record if they were to win. Their phones were taken away by chief coach Pullela Gopichand to keep the star assets of Indian badminton away from all distractions. So they were oblivious that their quarterfinal wins over their opponents broke a 36-year-old jinx for India.
While Saina won 21-18 21-16 against Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, PV Sindhu beat another Thai player, Nitchaon Jindapol, 21-11 16-21 21-14. Since Syed Modi’s bronze medal at the 1982 Asiad, Indians have returned empty-handed from Asian Games in individual competition. “Well, our phones were taken away so we didn’t know the exact record but we knew we were doing something important today as Gopi sir was talking about it,” Saina told after her quarterfinals win. The win was a bit of hard work for Saina as errors and Intanon’s deceptive play had the Indian on the ropes. It started with a couple of errors from Saina as she found the net twice. Add a faulty judgement from her and the Indian was already 1-5 behind in the first game.
That gap burgeoned to 3-11 at the break. All this while the most confident shot from Saina’s racquet was a down-the-line smash to cut the lead to 3-7. But the errors continued to come from her racquet.
Intanon was doing all to break the jinx of losing against Saina — she had lost against the Indian the last four times the duo met. Then something clicked and Saina began to pick points and now the errors started to mount from Intanon’s racquet.
“At 3-12 I was not thinking anything, maybe (to do well) in the second set. But then I told myself to fight and let’s see what happens,” Saina said later. “I wasn’t moving that well but then after 12-3 I started picking her tough shots and after a couple of rallies I could see her tiring.”
Saina said she was a bit under pressure after the initial rallies. “First game was very challenging in terms of she was in the lead and the crowd was shouting and then there was a lot of pressure on me and then I had a good record against her, so many things were going on in my mind,” she add.
Saina was relatively comfortable in the second game and was always in the lead. She eventually closed out the match 21-16.
If Saina had a slow start, Sindhu had a mid-match slump against Jindapol. After racing to a 21-11 win in the opening game, Sindhu was sluggish and error-prone in the second game. Jindapol was retrieving almost everything Sindhu threw at her. The Thai’s deceptive play and crosscourt shots were troubling Sindhu a lot. To be fair, Sindhu did make it harder for Jindapol as she levelled it from 13-16 down. But that wasn’t enough and lost the game 16-21. She was trailing 4-7 in the third game but won seven points in a row to take the lead, and closed out the match at 21-14.
“I think in the second set I made unforced errors. I thought I could finish the game in two sets. It was down to my mistakes. It was easy errors and I feel I gave her the second set,” Sindhu said.