HS Prannoy has beaten World No 2 Kidambi Srikanth 21-15, 16-21, 21-7 in a thrilling finale to claim the men's singles title at the National Championship in Nagpur on Wednesday. In the women’s singles, Saina Nehwal has gotten the better of PV Sindhu 21-17, 27-25 to lift her third Nationals title.
Second seed Prannoy, who achieved his career-best ranking of World No 11 last week, took only 49 minutes to exact the revenge for his French Open semi-final loss to his compatriot. In the first game, six-time Superseries champion Srikanth rode on the series of unforced errors from Prannoy to take the lead at 4-1, but Prannoy produced some precise smashes to claw back at 7-7. However, Srikanth ensured that he took a slender one-point lead at the mid-game interval. After the break, the 25-year-old Thiruvananthapuram lad continued his good run and eked out a 14-12 lead which he quickly extended to 20-14 when Srikanth miscued a stroke. With a strong backhand return, Prannoy grabbed the opening game 21-15.
In the second game, Prannoy opened up a 2-0 lead before moving to a 7-3 advantage. However, Srikanth recovered with some angled returns and made it 8-8 when Prannoy rushed into a shot and found the net. Then, Srikanth produced a cross-court smash that a diving Prannoy failed to retrieve and Srikanth went to the mid-game interval with an 11-10 again. Post interval, Srikanth continued to gather points and took a 17-15 lead before Prannoy again committed few errors to give him the game at 16-21 that took the match into the decider.
In the final game, it was Prannoy all the way as he engaged Srikanth in fast-paced rallies and that ploy worked as well as he took a 6-1 lead. Srikanth also kept hitting the shuttle back most of the time successfully, Prannoy ensured that he had a healthy 11-3 lead at the interval. After the break, Prannoy didn’t give his academy mate any chance to dominate the proceedings, producing some steep acute-angled strokes and net dribbles to lead 16-4. The World No 2 continued to struggle with his rhythm and one of his backhand returns went to the net to give the match point to Prannoy, who eventually sealed the game to win his maiden national title.
Saina gets the better of Sindhu
In another match, as expected, two biggest stars in Indian badminton – Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu - brought their best game to the fore from the outset and went neck-to-neck. Although Sindhu secured the first two points, Saina put her cross-court smashes to great use to level things up at 5-5. Sindhu, however, didn’t let her academy mate completely dominate her but Saina was clearly the best among the duo in the first game and went into the break with a slender lead of 11-9. Saina, mostly, relied on stopping Sindhu from moving more on the court, but the Rio Olympics silver medalist made sure that she was in the game securing four back-to-back points that took the game to 17-16. On the next point, Saina hit a cross-court shot and it landed wide, but that wasn’t sufficient to stop the London Olympics bronze medalist from clinching the first game 21-17.
Sindhu, though, made a stunning comeback in the second game to lead 5-1 at one point, but a determined Saina, with her cross court smash and beautiful baseline game, levelled things up at 6-6 after a wonderful 34-shot rally. With both players not giving an inch, Sindhu managed to enter the break with a decent lead of 11-8 when she sent down a smash that Saina couldn't keep in play. After a good rally, Saina hit a smash from near the court to win the point and that was the beginning of putting pressure on her city mate as she picked seven points while conceding two to lead the game at 15-13. The game took a dramatic turn after that and the duo found them locked at 20-20. But after that what happened that took the was simply put breathtaking as the Hyderabadis kept exchanging the next 11 points on offer to take the game to 26-25. However, an unforced error by Sindhu made sure that Saina lifted her third nationals title.
Will Saina Nehwal make it to the Semi Finals of India Open 2018?
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