Saina Nehwal was at her ruthless best but top seeds India were tested more than usual before entering the badminton mixed team event finals with a 3-1 win over Singapore in the Commonwealth Games semifinals today.
It was sweet revenge for India, who had lost 2-3 to Singapore in the bronze medal playoff at the 2014 Glasgow CWG. Saina, playing her fifth match in the last four days, was in complete command as she took down Singapore's Jia Min Yeo 21-8 21-15 to steer the side through after a shock loss in men's doubles. Despite playing with a heavily strapped right foot, Saina didn't show any signs of discomfort as she guided the Indian team to victory. "It was expected that we would play in the finals. I never thought they (Singapore) would give us such stiff competition," Saina said on the resistance put up by Singapore in the doubles games.
"I was actually happy that I could play the match today and make that winning point for the Indian team," she added. The proceedings were opened by the mixed doubles pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa against Yong Kai Terry Hee and Jia Ying Crystal Wong. The Singaporeans gave Ashwini and Satwik quite a scare before going down 22-20 21-18 in a 41-minute clash. "Had we lost, we would have been under pressure," Ashwini later said acknowledging her rivals' strong performance.
Singapore had won the team bronze in the Glasgow Games and that they were no pushovers was made clear when the men's doubles pairing of Satwik and Chirag Shetty came up against Terry Hee and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta. The debutant youngsters were beaten 21-17 19-21 12-21, and were found wanting in court coverage. "We were a bit unfortunate. The tactics that we used didn't work out for us," said Chirag. Luckily for them, K Srikanth had provided the team with a 2-0 cushion with his singles win over Kean Yew Loh.
He too had his share of toiling to do and was locked 17-17 with Loh in the opening game before moving ahead for a 21-17 21-14 victory. "I think it is always important to have the first set under your belt. It gives you a lot of confidence going into the second set. It is the hard job done if you win the first set," he said. "Also, to have a 1-0 lead against them (Singapore), meant that the whole team was not depending on me," he added. Ashwini said the Indian team was better prepared to handle Singapore's tenacity this time. "Last time we weren't too bad as a team but we didn't really have a mixed doubles partnership. So, definitely this time around we have an all round team with all five events taken care of, that gives the entire team a lot of confidence and also makes us stronger," she explained.