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Saina beats Sindhu to win first title in 15 months

Lucknow, Jan 26 : Top Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal ended her 15-month title drought by beating compatriot and second seed P.V. Sindhu in the women's singles final to win the $120,000 India Grand Prix Gold here Sunday.

The top seed, who last won a title at the Denmark Open Super Series Premier in October 2012, beat Sindhu 21-14, 21-17 in 40 minutes to take home a cheque of $9,000 at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium here.

The Olympic bronze medallist had defeated Sindhu during the Indian Badminton League (IBL) also in August 2013.

Last year's runner-up Sindhu once again had to be content with silver in her first ever official Badminton World Federation (BWF) match against Saina.

The two Pullela Gopichand proteges entered the stadium to a rousing welcome from a packed house on Republic Day, a national holiday, which also had Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in attendance.

World No.9 Saina got off the blocks quickly, taking a 5-0 lead to the delight of the vociferous crowd. Saina proved too good for Sindhu and extended the gap to 8-1 using her smashes to good effect.

With Saina ahead 11-5, Sindhu's confidence slowly began to grow as she hammered three fantastic down the line smashes to close the scoreline to 12-14. But Saina didn't let her 18-year-old opponent settle down and raced away to a 19-14 lead, winning the game with a irretrievable drop.

The World Championship bronze medallist, however, came back strongly in the second game.

Sindhu returned Saina the favour in the second game and breezed through to a 4-0 lead. She retrieved much better than the first game and took the fight to Saina. But an aggressive World No.9 accepted the challenge and equalised the scoreline at 5-all.

Sindhu still maintained the lead until a backhand smash at the net went straight to her body, giving the Olympic medallist the lead for the first time in the second game (10-9).

The 2009 champion upped the ante and brought down the length of the rallies to increase the gap to 18-12. Sindhu clawed back to 16-20 and also managed to save a matchpoint before missing the final shot to give Saina the crucial win and a break in the 15-month drought.

--IANS (Posted on 26-01-2014)

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