In a blockbuster face-off between the two Indian shuttle queens, Saina Nehwal beat PV Sindhu 21-18, 21-15 to win her fourth title at the Yonex-Sunrise 83rd Senior National Badminton Championships 2018-19 in Guwahati on Saturday.
The men’s singles glory was reserved for Sourabh Verma who won his third Nationals title with a 21-18, 21-13 triumph over Asian junior champion Lakshya Sen.
The singles winners were awarded a lucrative prize money of Rs 3.25 lakh while the runners-up got Rs 1.7 lakh. Each of the singles semi-finalists and the quarter-finalists got richer by Rs 62500 and Rs 27500 respectively.
The showdown between Saina and Sindhu, a repeat of their enthralling final from the previous edition, was undoubtedly the cynosure of all eyes at the packed stadium attended by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BAI president Himanta Biswa Sarma among others.
Saina overcame an erratic start to slowly gain in confidence. After trailing 1-3, she drew level at 5-5 with husband Parupalli Kashyap egging her on. With not much to choose between the two, the hard-fought match continued to be even until 10-10. It was where Saina’s brilliant movement and unwavering focus made a difference and the defending champion went up to 16-12.
Saina kept targeting the corners to keep Sindhu out of position and soon bagged the opening game.
A more aggressive approach from the tall Sindhu sent her up to 5-3 in the second game. The momentum soon swung Saina’s way, who once more started restricting her opponent from playing her naturally attacking game.
With Sindhu’s game collapsing into errors, a calm and steady Saina built a 12-9 advantage and soon extended it to 17-13 by pushing Sindhu to the backcourt and finding the opening for smashes. The persistent approach and her spectacular court coverage helped Saina wrap it up in 44 minutes.
This was Saina’s fourth title after earlier triumphs in 2006, 2007 and 2017 while Sindhu had been looking to add to her 2011 and 2013 titles.
In men’s singles, Sourabh Verma and Lakshya Sen met in a repeat of their 2017 final. Even though Sen stormed out of the blocks, it was the patient Sourabh who once again mastered the young Sen.
The 17-year-old made a fabulous start as he broke away from a 6-6 tie to race ahead to 11-6. Verma tried to prolong the rallies after that and took four points on the trot. After Sen smashed his way up to 15-13, his barrage of unforced errors cost him the lead and Verma’s composure allowed him to go up to 18-16 and pocket the opening game.
Sen fought back to 4-4 from 0-3 down in the second game but once again could not do enough to make a dent in Sourabh’s confidence levels. The latter banked on his precision and control to surge to 11-7 before finishing in 44 minutes.
Verma thus tasted success at the Nationals for the third time following victories in 2011 and 2017. Sen had to remain content with a two-time runner-up show.
Having lost in the men’s doubles final with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in the last edition, Chirag Shetty made up for it this time in partnership with Pranaav Jerry Chopra. The second seeds upset the top seeds Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran 21-13, 22-20 to take the men’s doubles title.