Kuala Lumpur: Saina Nehwal clinched her first Masters title since her career-threatening knee injury as she defeated Thailand teenager Pornpawee Chochuwong 22-20, 22-20 in a thrilling Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament final in in Sarawak on Sunday.
Saina Nehwal had to dig deep to win the first game. With Chochuwong just five points away from winning the opener, Saina unleashed an array of cross court smashes to roar back into the game. After leveling 19-19, Saina went for the kill.
In the second game too, Saina’s Thai opponent raced to a 3-0 lead. Saina 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 on the Indian. Chochuwong’s court movements started to slow down a bit and Saina took advantage of it by upping the ante.
Saina was a point away from winning the second game and the match when Chochuwong took three consecutive points to keep the game in balance at 20-20. Saina Nehwal, however, held her nerves to close the match with two consecutive points. The Indian had produced dominating performance right through the tournament including the semifinals, where she notched up a straight-game win over Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin.
Doubts were raised on Saina’s future after her early exit from the Rio Olympics due to a knee injury. 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.