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Saina wins three badminton titles in three weeks

By The Assam Tribune

Jakarta, June 27 (IANS): India's Saina Nehwal made her country proud on Sunday as she won the Indonesian Open Super Series for her third straight badminton title in three weeks, including the two successive Super Series titles. The World No.3 defeated a fighting Sayaka Sato of Japan 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 in the final here on Sunday, a win that is expected to lift her to World No. 2 rankings this week.

Top seeded Saina, who hails from Hyderabad where her parents watched the match on television, was a strong favourite to defend her title after winning the Indian Open Grand Prix and the Singapore Open Super Series in the last two weeks which saw her climb two places in the rankings this week, marching ahead of the three top Chinese players.

The 20-year-old Indian, with many records to her name, is expected to go up one more place in the world rankings after her stupendous run. The No.1 badminton player in the world is Wang Yihan of China.

Though the top Chinese players were not playing in the tournament, it is still a big achievement for Saina considering she now has three Super Series titles.

It began here one year ago when she first won the Indonesian Open and Sunday she used all her experience to get past giant-killer Sato, who gave a strong fight to the Indian, in front of a packed crowd that had a sprinkling of Indians waving the Indian tricolour.

Sato, ranked 26 in the world, had defeated two seeded players, including third seed Zhou Mi of Hong Kong.

The resilient Japanese, who lost to Saina in the final of the World Junior Badminton championship in Pune in 2008, bounced back from a game down with some crisp drop shots.

Saina, coached by former All England Champion Pullela Gopichand, made a confident start and quickly opened up a 8-4 lead, but Sato caught her up at 11-11 exhibiting brilliant backhand shots and also taking advantage of the Saina's errors. It was a neck-and-neck battle from there on with both players competing fiercely for every point.

Sato took the lead at 17-16, but Saina surged ahead pocketing three points before finishing off the game.

The left-handed Sato dictated the course of play in the second game and Saina was clearly under pressure. The Japanese with a supple wrist set up the points beautifully even as Saina tried hard to comeback. Sato took a 6-2 lead and consolidated on it to put it beyond the Indian, who preserved her energy for the decider.

Saina came back strongly in the second game and it was her net-play that got the better of the Japanese, who was struggling to read Saina's game.

Once Saina went up 8-5, Sato went down with a string of errors.

Saina served for the match as a hush descended on the stadium. But soon it exploded into cheers and applause as Saina screamed after Sato shut out her chances with a wild shot.

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