India’s ace shuttler Saina Nehwal returned to her winning ways after a long time. In the Star Australian Open BWF super-series final at Sydney on Sunday, Nehwal beat Spain’s Carolina Marin to announce her still mighty presence in the badminton circuit. Her last super-series triumph was at the Denmark open in 2012 but afterwards, Nehwal had injury issues and skipped many tournaments. Nehwal’s lone major victory in 2014 came at India Open Grand Prix Gold, earlier this year but a super-series title has been eluding her until now. Like Nehwal, Chinese legend Lin Dan and Olympic men’s champion, also won his first super-series title after a gap of over 2 years but the most notable achievement at Sydney was recorded by Korean men’s doubles pair of Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong, who completed a hat-trick of World Super-series victories. Last month, the pair won in Japan Yonex Open and followed that win with the one at Indonesian Open in Jakarta.
Finally, Saina Nehwal rediscovered some of her old glory at Australian BWF World Super-series tournament. Before coming to the final, Saina had a tough semifinal opponent in top-seeded Chinese and long-time rival Wang Shixian. The two have played several classic matches in the past and though their encounter at Sydney was not in the same class, it was still an important match for both players. After taking the first game 21-19, Nehwal raced away to a 12-7 lead in the second. The Chinese, however, had some reserves left as she forced the Indian into some crucial errors by raising her game and taking the second game 21-17. Nehwal played cautiously in the third, which went to 13-13 before Nehwal found an opening, as Wang committed errors. Luck deserted the Chinese with some of her shots landing marginally beyond regulation lines. Nehwal kept herself composed and reached 20-15 with a great-looking smash. The Chinese lost, when her smash on the match-point fell outside, giving Nehwal a 21-19, 16-21, 21-15 victory.
In the final, Nehwal faced Spain’s Carolina Marin, a left hander, who had entered her first-ever super-series final after beating Japan’s Yui Hashimoto 21-17 21-16. Bolstered by her triumph over Wang Shixian in the semifinal, Nehwal played like a champion against the Spaniard. Though Marin showed flashes of brilliance at times with her deceptive shots, Nehwal still dominated the game by consistent play. But at 17-12 in the first game, Marin held off the Indian for a while and tried to rally back in the game with her doggedness. Regardless, Nehwal was able to close the game at 21-18 after 23 minutes. In the second game, a relentless Nehwal completely outplayed Marin to clinch the game and the championship 21-18, 21-11 in 43 minutes.
The final of the men’s singles featured five-time World champion Lin Dan of China playing against Indonesia’s Simon Santoso. For Lin Dan, it was the first BWF World Super-series final after his All-England victory in 2012. Earlier on Saturday, Lin Dan had beaten his younger compatriot Tian Houwei 21-19 23-21 in the semifinal but not before a stiff resistance from the defending champion. The final proved to be a full-stretch three-game battle, in which the Indonesian put pressure on the Chinese in the first game. Dan raced to an early 17-13 lead but Santoso displayed his tenacity in not only wiping off the deficit but taking the game 24-22. In the second game, however, an improved Dan produced pinpoint jump smashes and sharply angled shots. Santoso was not found wanting either, as he too, played a wide array of shots to leave the celebrated Chinese stranded at times but Dan still took the second game 21-16 with flourish and his unrelenting display left the Indonesian in tatters. The third game was woefully one-sided, which the Chinese took easily to finish the match 22-14, 21-16, 21-7 in 75 minutes.
The best performance on Sunday came from the Korean men’s double pair of Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong. Riding on their recent victories in Japan and Indonesia super-series, Lee/Yoo produced sublime form and played with complete control against Lee Sheng Mu and Tsai Chia Hsin of Chinese Taipei. Their hat-trick of victory was achieved with consummate ease as they won 21-14, 21-18. The Koreans demonstrated their superiority in defense and attack against the Chinese Taipei pair, giving them hardly any chance. Mu/Hsin momentarily showed some challenge in second game but that was not enough against the committed Koreans.
The mixed doubles title at Sydney was won by Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na, when the pair defeated Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels of Germany 21-16 21-17; while women’s doubles crown was claimed by China’s Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei. In the final the Chinese women proved too strong against the Japanese Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo in their 21-15 21-9 victory.
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