NEW DELHI: As soon as the main draw of the Yonex Sunrise India Open was out, all badminton aficionados in the country were looking forward to just one thing — a PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal clash in the quarterfinals. Both girls were flooded with questions by journalists regarding the possibility of facing each other, even when the first and second round matches were going on.
Come Friday, the possibility turned into a reality and Sindhu managed to get the better of her compatriot 21-16, 22-20. The lanky girl showed the kind of game that she is not really known for—bringing Saina forward to net, and making her opponent move a lot on the court.
This is something new that the Olympic silver medalist has added to her armory, and used it to great effect in this match.
Though there was huge anticipation, the match lasted just 41 minutes. Saina had no answer to Sindhu’s net game. Mentally too, Sindhu showed maturity in handling pressure and came back from a four-point deficit in second set. Emotions spilled on to the court as Sindhu cried and clenched her fists after the victory.
However, at the post-match presser, Sindhu dismissed any suggestions of intense rivalry putting it bluntly, “Saina is not someone special that I have to win against her whenever I play her. I give 100 percent against all players.”
“Even when she was leading 20-19, I still had the belief that I could pull through, I can do it and that kept me on,” she said. Saina, surprisingly, missed the post-match interaction. “Rivalry is always there but off court we are friends.”
“I have tried it quite a few times, and Saina is good at it. So it was the case of me responding well to all the net shots she played. I think I’ve improved in that department,” Sindhu said.
It was just the second time that the two were facing each other in any international competition—the previous occasion being Syed Modi Grand Prix gold in 2014 where Saina was the winner—their games have changed since then. While Sindhu has improved on her defence and her all round court play, Saina has started to rely heavily on defence only.
“Our games have changed but then we always keep looking to improve. I think Saina was playing good too, but she was a bit surprised by my net game.” Normally, one would expect the players to be under a lot of pressure knowing that everyone is eagerly waiting for the clash, but Sindhu clarified that there was not the case.
“I think as players you don’t think about what all opponents are you going to face. It is all the fans and media who were waiting us to play against each other. So there was no pressure for me.”