Gold Coast : Saina Nehwal’s aggression and intensity quite literally brought top seed PV Sindhu to her knees as she ensnared the women’s singles Commonwealth Games gold but K Srikanth and the debutant men’s doubles pair of Satwik Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty settled for silver medals on the final day of the event here on Sunday.
In an exhilarating contest, Saina won 21-18 23-21. The triumph marked a remarkable end to her CWG campaign this edition. She was the pillar of India’s gold-winning campaign in the team championship earlier, playing every one of the singles matches due to Sindhu’s ankle injury.
She had earlier claimed the 2010 Delhi Games gold.
However, in men’s singles world No.1 Srikanth let slip a strong start to lose 19-21 21-14 21-14 to Malaysian icon Lee Chong Wei, who claimed the third individual gold of his career. He also has two mixed team gold medals to his name.
Also ending second were Satwik and Chirag, going down to Rio Olympics bronze medallist Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge of England 21-13 21-16 in a 39-minute contest.
Overall, India signed off with their best-ever haul — two gold, three silver and a bronze in the badminton competition. Indian shuttles had won four medals in the last two editions at Glasgow and Delhi.
The highlight of the day was the Saina-Sindhu clash, which lived up to the hype with the former world no 1, especially, bringing her A game to the court.
The brute force of Sindhu’s smashes was something that Saina found hard to deal with. On the other hand, Sindhu found it tough to adjust to the delicate placement of strokes by Saina, who took the pace off the shuttle by attacking the net.
The strategy worked quite well for the London Olympics bronze-medallist and she raced to a 9-4 lead. As the gap widened, Saina’s command on the baseline also improved. The contrasting styles of the two shuttlers made for an exhilarating contest.
A telling image of the opening game was when Sindhu was brought to her knees trying to return a smash that didn’t really have any power in it but was just placed perfectly on the left corner.
“It was a neck to neck game. For me, it was even tougher because I have been playing for the last 10-12 days. She is tall, she has longer legs and covers the court better than me, I have to run here and there,” second seed Saina said after the match.
Sindhu, on the other hand, called the loss just one of those days.
“I was completely fine so nothing to complain. I gave my best. It was a good week for me. Maybe today was not my day,” she said.
Next one in for India was Srikanth, who had beaten the Lee in the team championships final earlier in the Games, but the former world number one rallied for a 19-21 21-14 21-14 triumph today for his third CWG gold.
A decade older than the Indian, Lee kept his best for the last, showing off the legendary reflexes that have earned him cult status in international badminton, in the deciding third game.
“I started well but I made too many mistakes in my defence. I gave him that early lead which I should have avoided,” Srikanth said.
“He played really well in the second and third set. The first set was quite close. In the third set I really should not have given him that lead. He just played much better,” he added.
Similar was the story of Satwik and Chirag, who lost to Ellis and Langridge.
“We are very disappointed. We hoped the tactics that we used, the things we wanted to apply, would count on the scoreboard, but we couldn’t do that so we’re a bit disappointed. We didn’t get the feeling right from early on,” Chirag said of the straight-game loss.
‘Will fight for my father’
Nehwal said she has no regrets about “standing up for her father” in the athletes village accommodation controversy ahead of the, at the peak of which she threatened to pull out of the event before claiming both the singles and team gold medals.
“I don’t mind fighting for my dad anywhere. People have written that I put my dad first but it’s not the case otherwise I wouldn’t have won medals for my country,” an emotional Saina said after the final.
“Why tell me that everything is done when it’s not done? Had I known I would have booked a hotel for him. He was given personal coach accreditation and after a long journey, I was handling this situation,” she said referring to the instance in which her father was not allowed entry into the games village.
Saina said the issue was major distraction for her and she was quite stressed because of it.
“For two days, I was worried and didn’t even sleep. I can’t sit there for three-four hours and be patient, I am not a government official. I am a player, I have matches. she said.
“He was sitting outside the village for two days. He couldn’t even come in to the dining hall. What was the point of his coming here. It was a stressful situation but you have to fight it out. I needed rest. Roger Federer says he sleeps for 10-12 hours, I was not even sleeping for half an hour because my father was sitting outside. How could I sleep?” she said.
Saina said the criticism that came her way because of the incident was uncalled for. She had been accused of blaming the Indian officialdom with her pullout threat.
“The problem was I fought, people didn’t like I fought. Why wouldn’t I fight for my parents?” she asked.
Saina also took a dig at her critics for writing her off after every bad result.
“There are 100 things that go in India. I wouldn’t say it happens in China but in India if I lose, people start with ‘Oh Saina lost, Saina is becoming old, Saina should retire’.
I think there would be 100 things written about me but for her (P V Sindhu) it is still ok because she is still coming up,” Saina said.