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Gold for Saina and silver for Sindhu gave India its fourth and fifth badminton medals and took to 62 the overall tally at the Gold Coast Games.
With this win Saina, ranked 12th in the world, took her overall head-to-head record against Sindhu to 4-1. The last time these two shuttlers met in the final of an event was at last year’s National Badminton Championships where Saina won 21-17, 27-25 to clinch her third title.
In a nutshell, Sunday’s gold medal match was about Saina’s relentless attacking approach. Sindhu looked hampered and was unable to find her range, which the vastly experienced Saina exploits ruthlessly. An aggressive Saina dictated the rallies in the early exchanges of game one, moving up 9-4 and then 11-6 with Sindhu struggling to respond. Sindhu rallied back to make it 14-18 as some of her trademark smashes began to materialise, but Saina was too good.
The 28-year-old did not let her aggression drop in the second game, even when Sindhu took a four-point lead. Saina repeatedly targeted Sindhu’s backhand and made her rush towards the net, and a hat-trick of smashes against her much younger opponent ensured the lead did not swell.
Down 14-18, Saina rebounded to make it 19-19 in an engrossing display of shuttle skills and temperament in which her superior attitude preyed on Sindhu’s apparent weaknesses. The longest rally of the game – 64 shots – made it game point for Sindhu, but two returns from her that went out of play made it match point for Saina.
Not yet, said Sindhu, who smashed one wide of Saina to make it 21-21 only for Saina to smash herself back to within one point of a gold medal. The moment of ecstasy came seconds later, when another return from Sindhu landed outside the line.
Saina has now overall won five CWG medals: an individual gold and mixed team silver in 2010, a mixed team bronze in 2006 and team gold in 2018. She had been a pivotal member of the Indian team that won the country’s first mixed team gold medal at the CWG this week, and the pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy had taken bronze in the women’s doubles on Saturday.
Sindhu, 22, had suffered an injury scare during training in Hyderabad before India’s shuttlers left for Australia, and did not participate in any event until the women’s singles event began on Wednesday. She reached the semi-finals with straight games wins in the rounds of 16 and 32 and quarter-finals, and then on Saturday sealed her place in the gold medal match with a 2-0 win over over Canada’s Michelle Li.
A silver medal for Sindhu improves her performance from an individual bronze at the Glasgow CWG four years ago.