Saina, the duo of Goh V. Shem and Lim Khim Wah, and Ajay Jayaram won their respective matches to bring home the title.
On paper, Hyderabad Hotshots were playing Awadhe Warriors in the final of the inaugural Indian Badminton League at the National Sports Club of India’s Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium. But this was one encounter where the sub-text of the finale overshadowed the larger picture by a fair distance.
After all, the reigning queen of Indian badminton, Saina Nehwal, was up against PV Sindhu her challenger to the crown, who has surprised every observer with her rapid strides in the sport.
Nehwal had already beaten Sindhu once in the league and enjoyed an edge coming into the mega-clash on Saturday. Nevertheless, as the World Championships in Guangzhou in early August showed, the lanky Sindhu is hardly the one to care for reputations. That is where London Olympics bronze-medallist Nehwal needed to stay guarded.
And guarded she truly was initially. Nehwal began cautiously and then went on to literally toy with the 18-year-old World Championships bronze medallist in the first game before shutting it out 21-15 in just 16 minutes. Sindhu was pretty clueless in front of Nehwal’s measured smashes and extremely well timed deceptions. So dominant was Nehwal that the World No 10 looked absolutely listless, and a far cry from the player who had beaten Mumbai Masters’ Danish legend Tine Baun on two occasions in the tournament.
Spectators at the venue, meanwhile, tried hard to lift Sindhu’s sprits after the game, but their cheers were to no avail as Nehwal was just not willing to concede an inch. She was even more ruthless in the second game, running roughshod over her opponent 21-7.
It’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason why the match was reduced to a washout, but it was amply evident that Sindhu had run out of energy at the business-end of the tournament. And one would not fault her, because the girl who is trained by national coach Pullela Gopichand, just like Nehwal, has been playing continuously for about a month ever since the World Championships began on August 5, followed by the IBL that has shuttled between six cities in the course of a little over two weeks.
The experience factor
That does not mean Nehwal has been out of action or played fewer matches: she was a quarter-finalist at Guangzhou, but she is way too experienced and this was mightily visible on Saturday.
Nehwal was clearly relieved after the contest, saying: “I would like to thank my fans who have supported me all through. Sindhu played really well and gave her best, but I managed to outwit her. I have been really lucky during the entire league and won all my matches. I am happy to have won this match and hope my team wins the league.”
With inputs from agencies