Leading Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal clinched the women’s singles crown of the $700,000 China Open Super Series Premier but compatriot Kidambi Srikanth grabbed all the headlines by pulling off the biggest upset of his career when he beat two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan to win the men’s singles title in Fuzhou on Nov 16, 2014 (Sunday).
While sixth seeded Saina won her second Super Series title of 2014 by overcoming Japanese Akane Yamaguchi 21-12, 22-20 in 42 minutes, Srikanth stunned the five-time World Champion Chinese 21-19, 21-17 in 46 minutes at the Haixia Olympic Sport Center.
Srikanth on the eve of the summit clash said that it was his childhood dream to play ‘Super’ Dan in a final, that too in his own backyard. Come Sunday, he not only fulfilled his dream but went one step better by ousting the legendary Chinese in straight games to earn his first win in three outings against Dan.
Srikanth, ranked No.16 in the world, took off well and fast by going into a 9-4 lead in the first game. However, Dan, in his usual style, took time to get into his rhythm to close the gap at 15-all.
It was neck-and-neck till 19-all but Srikanth held his nerves to take the next two points and bag his first ever game against Dan, often called the greatest ever shuttler.
The second game was a tighter affair with Dan also coming out with tougher competition. However, the Indian youngster found legs and matched each stroke of the Chinese great to take it to 15-all.
The 21-year-old Hyderabadi, just like the first game, came out with his best strokes just when it mattered most to clinch six of the next eight points and earn the biggest win of his career.
“Great wins! It is fantastic for both of them and Indian badminton. For Srikanth, it was a big match and at the end of it he kept his nerve to earn the big win. Overall, he has played some high level badminton throughout the tournament,” chief national coach Pullela Gopichand told IANS.
The World No.16 Indian, on the eve of the summit clash, had said that it was his childhood dream to play Dan in a final, that too in his own backyard. On Sunday, he not only fulfilled his dream but went one step better.
“He is only 21 years old. The first time he played against Lin Dan, he was over-awed with the situation. The second time the amount of respect was still there. But now he did it,” Gopi said of Srikanth, who had lost his previous two meetings against Dan.
Earlier in the women’s singles final, Saina totally dominated her World No.35 Japanese opponent in the first game. At one point the World No.5 Indian took seven successive points to take a 15-7 advantage. It was only a matter of time before Saina sealed the game in her favour.
However, the 17-year-old Akane upped the ante in the second game and Saina had to come out with her best to keep the Japanese’s points in check. The Indian was given a scare when the unseeded Akane reached gamepoint at 20-19. But Saina doused the lead and won the next two points to bag her first China Open title.
“So happy to win my 3rd title this year. Great feeling to win the China Open. One of the toughest tournaments,” tweeted Saina, who had also won the Australian Open Super Series in June and the India Grand Prix Gold in January.
Asked about Saina’s performance, Gopi said: “For Saina, the entire tournament, she has played really well. It was a complete performance from her. She has been fantastic throughout. She has been getting some very good results recently and this will give her the confidence of doing well in the future.”