Saina Nehwal defeated Thailand teenager Pornpawee Chochuwong 22-20, 22-20 in a thrilling Malaysian Masters Grand Prix Gold final in Sarawak on Sunday, silencing her critics.
Saina Nehwal went under the knife after an early exit from the Rio Olympics where her compatriot PV Sindhu created history by winning the silver medal — a first for Indian badminton.
While the injury lay off was expected to be a long one for Saina, the Hyderabadi returned to action within three months of the surgery setback. Saina, once the undisputed queen of Indian badminton, got a rude shock when she was retained for her base price (Rs 33 lakh) by Awadhe Warriors after going into reserve pool for finding no takers when her name first came up in the Premier Badminton League auction.
Upon her return, she faced early exits and also missed the qualification mark for Dubai World Superseries Finals. However, on Sunday she made a winning start to 2017.
Saina had to dig deep to win the first game in Malaysian Masters Grand Prix. With Chochuwong just five points away from winning the first game, Saina unleashed an array of cross court smashes to roar back into the game. After leveling for the first time in the game at 19-19, Saina went for the kill.
In the second game too,Saina Nehwal’s Thai opponent took an early 3-0 lead before the Indian clawed back into the game by engaging Chochuwong in long rallies which is the Hyderabadi’s strongest asset.
After levelling at eight points, Saina looked to consolidate her lead, but Chochuwong kept the pressure up on the Indian. Chochuwong’s on court movement slowed down a bit and Saina took advantage of it by upping the ante.
Saina was a point away from winning the second game just when Chochuwong took three consecutive points to keep the game in balance at 20-20. Saina, however, held her nerves to wrap up the thrilling final in straights games.
Doubts were raised on Saina’s future after her early exit from Rio. Several experts reckoned that she made a hasty return to competitive badminton after the surgery. However, all those concerns was dispelled after Sunday’s super show.