The Saina Nehwal-led Indian women’s badminton team created history Thursday by ensuring their first ever bronze medal finish at the World Women’s Team Championship for the Uber Cup being played at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here.
Indian shuttlers drubbed powerhouse Indonesia 3-0 in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final clash against Japan Friday. Even if India lose now, they will take home a bronze medal. Japan, on the other hand, whitewashed Denmark 3-0 to also proceed to the last four.
World No.8 Saina gave India the start they needed by beating World No.23 Lindaweni Fanetri 21-17, 21-10 in the first singles to gain a 2-1 advantage in career meetings.
The Hyderabadi’s court coverage was superb from the start but Lindaweni gave good competition. The Indonesian marched into the lead (11-5) at the start and extended her lead to 15-7. But Saina found legs to fight back and win an amazing 14 of the next 16 points to take home the game.
That incredible comeback from Saina completely shattered Lindaweni’s confidence, who could offer very little resistance before the Olympic bronze medallist shut the doors on her.
“At the start, I was hurrying up a lot. But I got my focus back and in the second game she got tired. I just played my game without looking at points. I am getting back my confidence and improving as well. It was good to beat another top player,” said Saina, who won her fourth match on the trot.
World Championship bronze medallist P.V. Sindhu followed it up with the most tense and exciting match of the day where both shuttlers saved two matchpoints.
Eventually, the Indian prevailed 21-16, 10-21, 25-23 over Bellaetrix Manuputty to give India a 2-0 lead in a marathon match which lasted an hour and 24 minutes.
After sharing the first two games, the decider turned out to be a see-saw battle where none gave space to the other and both appeared to be drained of energy. The World No.11 Indian managed to hold her nerves to come out victorious in the end and better her record to 2-1.
It boiled down to Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa in the first doubles and the Commonwealth Games gold medallists didn’t disappoint the fans who had finally turned out in large numbers to support the host team.
The Indian combine made sure the tie did not extend to the last two matches by clinching their doubles encounter 21-18, 21-18 against World No.9 pair Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari.
“We had to win because we knew that the next singles and doubles would be tough for India. We defended really well and made some fine moves. Ashwini played a smart game. It feels good that this is the first ever bronze and we will give our 100 percent against Japan,” said Jwala.