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K Srikanth, Saina Nehwal make history with China Open triumph

Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal's China Open wins make November 16, 2014 a red-letter day in Indian badminton, writes Sanjay Sharma

Sanjay SharmaNovember 16, 2014 will go down in Indian sporting history as a red-letter day for Indian badminton. A day when Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal became toasts of the China Open badminton championships by emerging champions.

Srikanth’s feat is nothing short of a miracle. He humbled the greatest shuttler in history, Lin Dan in two games. Not only did he become the first Indian male to win a Super Series singles title by going into the den and collaring the tiger, but also signalled that the Gopichand-led Indian badminton team has now arrived in sensational fashion on the world stage.

Kidambi Srikanth
Kidambi Srikanth with their China Open trophies. Pic/AFP.

This victory of 21-19, 21-17 scoreline was no fluke. Though the 21-year-old Hyderabad lad, who started off as a doubles player before Gopichand spotted his great potential, had lost to Dan in their last two clashes, he took centerstage yesterday with a carefree attitude.

Saina Nehwal
Saina Nehwal with their China Open trophies. Pic/AFP.

“This is the best present I could get on my birthday,” said Gopi from his Hyderabad-based academy where celebrations had already begun, but will reach a crescendo when the champion returns home from the Hong Kong Open. “I was in touch with him on a daily basis. I knew he is a great fighter, but who would have guessed the performance he unleashed today. He had the great Chinese star on the run. I must say that my player played with nerves of steel. He never looked overawed at any stage,” birthday boy Gopichand (41) said on Sunday evening.
Gopichand had defeated Lin Dan when the Chinese was a young rising star. Later, he beat a 31-year-old Gopichand as a 21-year-old. Coincidentally, the now 31-year-old Lin Dan was beaten by a 21-year-old Indian.

There were so many net cross-courts and half-smashes on the cross court side that Lin Dan kept on getting caught on the wrong foot. And Srikanth never trailed at any time. He was always a point or two ahead so he could experiment with his strokes.

Meanwhile, Saina made it a grand double by finally annexing her biggest title yet by seeing off Japan’s 17-year-old Akane Yamaguchi in two games. Saina was lucky though as all the top Chinese were defeated in the early rounds, but her third victory in 2014 will auger well for the next season.

Through these wins, the game in India will take a quantum leap in terms of popularity and will attract more youngsters to the sport. Secondly, India’s second-string shuttlers can start playing with much more confidence, knowing fully well that they can emulate the current stars.

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