Thursday, June 22, 2006

Saina rules at Manila

Philippines Open: This was the first of four tournaments that the Indian team was to participate in. I played a local player, Bartolomew, in the first round. I won 14-21, 21-8, 22-20. It shouldn’t have been such a close match but I was a little overconfident and paid the price for it.

With the new 21 rally point scoring system it is very important to remain focussed throughout a match even if it is easy as it can get close very quickly. I didn’t exactly have the best start to the tournament and I ended up losing in the next round to 9/16 seed Kendrick Lee of Singapore 22-20, 19-21, 19-21. I had beaten Lee in the Commonwealth Games in March, but this time he managed to play better in the closing stages of the second and third games and won in three tough games.

Arvind and Chetan got to the last 16 stage losing to Ng Wei and Roslin Hashim respectively.

But the story of the tournament has to be Saina Nehwal’s first Grand Prix victory. She was unseeded and ranked 85 at the start of the tournament. Saina beat Xu Haiwen of Germany in the quarterfinal, which is probably the biggest win ever by any Indian woman as Xu is ranked No.4 in the world. Saina went on to beat unseeded but good players in the semifinal (Ai Goto) and final (Julia Wong) and thus won her first Grand Prix event.

What was striking to me was that she played very confidently even though she is only 16 and hasn’t had too much experience in international badminton. This is surely the biggest achievement ever by an Indian woman in badminton. She has shown that there are no rules anymore, anything is possible.

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