Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal was forced to dig deep to overcome unseeded Thailand teenager Pornpawee Chochuwong in straight games to clinch the women’s singles title of the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold here on Sunday.
The 26-year-old top seed utilised her bank of experience and her vintage never-say-die attitude to pull off a 22-20, 22-20 win in 46 minutes to bag her first title after making a comeback after a knee surgery she underwent in August.
Initially slow, Saina was taken to task by Pornpawee, who made the best use of her delectable drop shots to run to an 11-5 lead till the two-minute halfway break.
After the breather, a refreshed Saina managed to pull things back. Pornpawee took the first point to stretch the lead to 12-5 but the London Olympic bronze medallist racked up three consecutive points before the Thai reached to 13 points. Saina, with the help of four back-to-back points, reduced the margin to one.
However, few unforced errors allowed the young Thai player to sit at a 19-16 advantage. Then, Saina, fought hard the way we have seen her do it so many times, and equalised at 19-point mark before nailing the first game 22-20.
The second game was also a see-saw affair. and this time, Saina didn’t allow Pornpawee to disctate the pace of the game. One thing that stood out in Saina’s game was the aggression. Going for the attacking shots, she held a three-point lead at 11-8.
Pornpawee equalised at the 11-point mark and thereafter the two were back in playing a neck-and-neck contest. Saina then pushed ahead towards a strong finish and ran away to a 10-16 advantage but only to see Pornpawee, showing her youthful energy, pull herself level at 20-all.
However, Saina managed to pull out a 22-20 win to seal the championship.
After the win, the 2015 World Championship runner-up thanked her coaches U. Vimal Kumar and Upendra Rana and physios Heath Mathews and Arvind Nigam.
In two separate tweets, she wrote: “Title belongs to my physios @physioheath and @ArvindDNigam4 who got me here in four months from knee surgery to the Malaysia masters title.
“Big big thanks to my coaches Vimal Kumar sir and @umendrarana sir for supporting me throughout this difficult journey.”
Meanwhile, in the men’s singles final, top seed Ng Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong won as South Korean retired when the match was at 14-21, 21-15, 10-9 in favour of the former.
In the men’s doubles final, Malaysians Kian Meng Tan and Pei Jing Lai beat compatriots Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai 21-17, 21-9 in 35 minutes.
The women’s doubles title went to Thai top-seeded pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, who moved past Poon Lok Yan and Tse Ying Suet of Hong Kong 21-17, 21-9 in 33 minutes.
Indonesian mixed doubles pair of Berry Angriawan and Hardianto Hardianto decimated the dreams of home challengers Sze Fei Goh and Nur Izzuddin with a 21-19, 21-12 victory in 44 minutes.