JAKARTA, Jan 27: Saina Nehwal made a perfect start to the new season, reaching the women�s singles final of the USD 350,000 Indonesia Masters with a thrilling straight-game win over World No. 4 Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand here today.
The former World No. 1, who has won thrice in Indonesia, dished out a spirited performance to overcome a fighting Ratchanok 21-19, 21-19 in the semifinal lasting 48 minutes.
Saina, who had a 8-5 head-to-head record against the 2013 World Champion Ratchanok, displayed tremendous fighting spirit as she erased a 6-10 deficit in the opening game and held on to the lead despite a late charge by the Thai shuttler in the second game.
The World No. 12 Indian has reached the final of an international competition after a year following her title triumph at Malaysia Masters last year.
In the finals, the London Olympics bronze medallist will play World No. 1 and top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, who saw off Chinese eighth seed He Bingjiao 19-21, 21-15, 21-15 in the other semifinals.
The 27-year-old from Hyderabad has a 5-8 head-to-head record against Tai Tzu, who has defeated the Indian in all their last six meetings. The last time Saina won against Tai Tzu was at the 2013 Swiss Open.
Meanwhile, the sensational run of young Indian men�s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty came to an end after they suffered a 14-21, 11-21 loss to top seeded Indonesian pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.
In the opening game, Ratchanok opened up a 3-1 lead early on. Saina slowly tried to claw back and produced an excellent return from the back of the court which kissed the sideline to make it 5-5.
However, she erred in her serve and then committed a couple of errors to allow Ratchanok lead 8-5.
Saina won an exceptional rally next but Ratchanok produced a brilliant straight smash and a cross court drop to move to 10-7. A net dribble going wrong gave another point to Saina but she went long next as Ratchanok entered the break with a three-point cushion.
Saina committed another service error but rode on her drop and body line returns to keep within touching distance at 11-13.
Ratchanok again turned the tables but Saina clawed back immediately with another body smash after sending a series of returns on her rivals backhand in a rally that had 32 shots.
Ratchanok next won a video referral to move to 16-15. Saina unleashed another down the line smash to again level scores but a half smash on Saina�s backhand kept Ratchanok ahead.
Saina�s return went long but she managed to stay at 18-18 after Ratchanok faltered at the net. The Indian sent a cross court return wide but Ratchanok also hit the net. The Thai player however went wide again to hand over one game point opportunity to Saina.
With another smash from Ratchanok going to the net meant Saina had grabbed the opening game.
In the second game, Saina came out with all cylinders blazing as she zoomed to a 6-1 lead. Ratchanok won a point with a cross court drop but Saina produced a towering smash and a precise return to make it 9-2.
Ratchanok then enjoyed a four-point burst to move to 6-10 but she hit the net next as eventually Saina entered the interval with a 11-8 lead after producing another down the line smash. � PTI