Saina shows the way as India trumps Thailand

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May 21, 2014

It was just the kind of victory a struggling Saina Nehwal needed.

Saina Nehwal helped India get off to a fine start by taking out World champion Ratchanok Intanon.

May 21, 2014

It was just the kind of victory a struggling Saina Nehwal needed.

Saina Nehwal helped India get off to a fine start by taking out World champion Ratchanok Intanon.

In a match involving two players battling crisis of confidence, Saina beat World champion Ratchanok Intanon 22-20, 21-14 to lay the foundation of India’s 3-2 victory over Thailand in their Uber Cup league tie at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday.

P.V. Sindhu, too, outgunned higher-ranked Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 21-19, 21-14 for her third victory in four meetings before G. Jwala and Ashwini gave India the winning lead. Thereafter, the expected defeats of P.C. Thulasi and Saina-Sindhu scratch combination did not hurt the host.

Topping the group meant India avoided playing China, Japan and possibly Korea in Thursday’s quarterfinals. India’s quarterfinal rival will be among Indonesia, Thailand, Denmark and England/Russia.

Significantly, Saina’s 42-minute victory was her first over a higher-ranked player — in a completed match — since her triumph over China’s Li Xuerui in the 2012 Indonesia Open final in June.

Tuesday’s triumph could well prove to be the boost Saina, ranked eighth, needed after months of ordinary results. But it must be remembered that World No. 4 Ratchanok, too, is struggling with injury and searching for form since becoming the youngest, at 18, to win the World title last August.

Therefore, this battle between two struggling performers was bound to produce a close encounter.

Backed by a section of noisy spectators in a sparsely-filled playing hall, Saina displayed the confidence missing from her on-court demeanor for a long time. She was also encouraged by some below par response from the World No. 4.

Saina repeatedly outplayed her rival on the net and unleashed timely smashes that often evoked weak returns.

Ratanchok did have her moments in the second half of the opening game when she led until 19-18 after bridging a four-point deficit. Undeterred, Saina made it 20-19.

After squandering the game-point, Saina got a second chance when Ratchanok erred at the net. An easy put-away from the forecourt brought Saina the opening game.

In the second game, when Saina led 11-4 and 15-10, the Thai girl seemed to have given up. Two long returns in succession from Ratchanok gave Saina her fifth victory in eight encounters.

Sindhu produced her best to tame World No. 9 rival who won their previous encounter last October. Sindhu trailed for just one point at 9-10 broke away at 17-all to take the opening game. In the second game, Sindhu’s aggression kept her comfortably ahead.

The Jwala-Ashwini pair provided the decisive lead by another clinical display. The Indians stayed in control and never looked threatened.

The results: Thomas Cup: Group A: Indonesia bt Nigeria 5-0; Thailand bt Singapore 4-1; Group B: Japan bt Hong Kong 5-0; Denmark bt England 5-0. Group D: China bt Chinese Taipei 5-0; France bt Russia 3-2.

Uber Cup

Group X: Indonesia bt Singapore 4-1; Korea bt Australia 5-0.

Group Y: India beat Thailand 3-2 (Saina Nehwal bt Ratchanok Intanon 22-20, 21-14; P.V. Sindhu bt Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 21-19, 21-14; G. Jwala & Ashwini Ponnappa bt Duranganong Aroonksesorn & Savitree Amitrapai 21-16, 21-13; P.C. Thulasi lost to Busanan Ongumbrungpan 15-21, 10-21; Saina & Sindhu lost to Kunchala Voravichitchaikul & Sapsiree Taerattanchai 12-21, 21-18, 15-21);  Hong Kong bt Canada 4-1.

Group Z: Japan bt Malaysia 4-1; Denmark bt Germany 5-0.


Courtesy: PTI

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