Olympic bronze-medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal fought through a troubling knee to clinch her fourth title of the year by lifting the Denmark Open Super Series Premier trophy with a dominating win in the final on Sunday.
The 22-year-old Saina, who was competing in her first tournament after the London Games, won 21-17, 21-8 in 35 minutes to notch up her second Super Series Premier title which fetched her $30,000 from a total purse of $400,000.
"I thank Denmark and the Indian fans here for supporting me. I never expected to win this tournament," an elated Saina said after the win which took her overall lead against Schenk to 6-3.
The match began a few minutes past the scheduled time as a false fire alarm went off at the venue.
Both players waited at their respective ends of the court with Schenk seemingly restless, even as the Indian stood next to the umpire with a confident smile on her face.
Playing in her fourth final of the year, Saina made a resounding start reeling off four straight points with a mix of her trademark crosscourt smashes to which Schenk had no response.
"There were a lot of things which I did after Olympics which made me fresh but every tournament is tough. My right knee was not really in perfect shape but I thank god for giving me the energy to win the title," said Saina who had beaten world number one Yihan Wang in the semifinals.
Saina was ahead 8-2 just three minutes into the match, which included five smash winners.
But Schenk clawed her way back to make it 9-9 with Saina being guilty of being a shade slow in her returns.
Schenk's ploy was to draw Saina close to the net to neutralise her trademark power-game and it worked as the German grabbed a 10-9 lead.
The third seeded Indian, however, relied on her fine baseline game to be 15-12 ahead. She also began to outfox Schenk at the net.
To her credit, the world number seven Schenk, seeded sixth in the tournament, showed a lot of commitment in retrieving whatever Saina threw at her in the engaging rallies.
The gap was not too huge between the two players but Saina took the early advantage as her ninth smash winner fetched her the opening game in 19 minutes.
In the second game, fortunes fluctuated as Schenk also improved her baseline game. Saina was still ahead 11-7 at the break but was guilty of committing quite a few errors.
But the Indian got her act together after wiping off the sweat and even though Schenk tested her in rallies with her fighting spirit. The German was, in fact, left exasperated as she struggled to get a grip of the pace of the game.
Leading 20-8, Saina won it rather easy as Schenk did not even return the Indian's serve on the championship point. The victory was sweet revenge for Saina who had lost in straight games to Schenk last year.
The triumph marked another high for the Indian shuttle queen who had successfully defended her Swiss Open title by defeating world number two Wang Shixian of China a day after she turned 22 in March
In June, Saina lifted the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold title before winning the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier by defeating world number three Li Xuerui of China. It was her third Indonesia Open title.
The Times of India, October 21, 2012
The torrential downpour in Visakhapatnam on Saturday provided yet another twist in the tale of the most anticipated comeback in Indian sport. The damp squib ensured that Yuvraj Singh will have to wait till Tuesday in Chennai before proving to the world that ‘he really can’.
The washed out first T20 against New Zealand also means that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni now has one less opportunity to tune up some of the finer aspects of his team’s campaign going into the upcoming World T20 in Sri Lanka. The most pertinent among them being calibrating his field placements to ensure optimum performance. Especially since Dhoni will be leading a squad, which despite bearing a significant resemblance to five years ago on paper, is now much older and arguably lacks the same vibrancy on the field.
Not to forget that the Indian captain has made no bones in the past about his apprehensions of going in with too many senior players in the shorter formats. He had even called them liabilities in terms of his team’s quest in keeping with the `every run you save on the field you gain’ formula for success in T20 cricket.
“This format of the game needs a lot of energy and the fielding is very important,” Dhoni has always maintained.
Five years ago, with Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly opting out, the man from Ranchi led a team bubbling with youth to South Africa. Many of those names still remain. But age has caught up with the likes of Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir too-all of whom now are on the wrong side of 30.
But back in 2007, T20 still remained an alien invention for the Indians. Since then, with the inception of the IPL among other factors, Dhoni & Co have turned into the most experienced campaigners in this format. The likes of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will be there of course bursting with energy as always.
In addition what Dhoni’s class of 2012 lack in terms of brazen freshness they make up for with immense know-how both individually as well as collectively. And that should certainly hold the team with the second oldest squad-on average-at World T20 IV in good stead.
Former India skipper and chief selector when India won the inaugural edition, Dilip Vengsarkar, for one clearly believes so. He insists that having a senior bunch of players need not necessarily be a drawback provided the personnel have the right skill-set for the shortest format of the game.
“Age is a factor in cricket, more so in Twenty20. When I was the chief selector in 2007, we focused on the fitness. Then again, fitness is something which can’t be defined by a particular theory. A 30-year-old can be much fitter than someone 10 years younger. Maybe the present selection committee has put more emphasis on the right combination rather than only the fitness aspect,” Vengsarkar told The Indian Express.
However, Vengsarkar seconds Dhoni’s view claiming that India may be lacking when it comes to fielding with some of the seniors not being the sprightliest. “Perhaps the selectors believe that individual skill of the players with bat and ball will make up for the shortcomings which we may see in the field,” Vengsarkar added.
The grounds in Sri Lanka may not be as vast as those in Australia where Dhoni initially made his worries public, but he will still have a number of holes to plug in the field. And he will hope that he’s worked out most of them by the time Team India depart from Chennai later this week.
By Shamik Chakrabarty, The Indian Express, September 9, 2012
World number five and top-seed Saina Nehwal won her second title of the year when she beat Thailand’s world number 11 Ratchanok Inthanon 19-21 21-15 21-10 in Bangkok on Sunday.
In doing so, she posted her third win in four meetings against the second-seeded Thai, the match lasting 65 minutes. It was not an easy final as she took some time to settle down before coming into her own, playing rallies, and foxing her opponent through deft net play.
“It was a big tournament, very tough, and I played with most of the top players. The final was very intense because Inthanon is world No 11 and one of the good youngsters who is playing well against all the tough players,” the elated 22-year-old told DNA from Bangkok.
Nehwal, whose first title in the year came at the Swiss Open in March, said it was a competitive tournament despite the absence of leading Chinese players. “There were three to four Chinese players, but they were not their top shuttlers. The competition is very severe at every level nowadays as everyone is playing well.”
Nehwal admitted she was under pressure in the final: “It (pressure) happens once you start playing with someone who is a local player and has a big crowd support. There was a little bit of problem at the start. She started off really well.”
The win should be a morale booster ahead of the Olympics. Nehwal, however, isn’t thinking much about the quadrennial event.
“I can’t say now what I can do at the Olympics. There is still a lot of time. I have to train very hard for that. Olympics is not an easy tournament, the competition is extremely high. People expect a great deal from me. I just expect hard work from myself,” she said.
Now, she’s wiser and far more experienced than the Nehwal of Beijing 2008. Back then, she was just 18 and exited in the quarters.
“From then, till now, I have won many tournaments and beaten quite a few top players. You never know if you can win the Olympics, be it as a junior or as an experienced player. Last time, when I was 18, I beat world No 5 (Wang Chen) in the pre-quarterfinals. Even experienced players lose at times. It’s how you play on that particular day.”
Asked if she could treat the Olympics as any other Super Series as advised by former great Prakash Padukone, Nehwal said, “It is sir’s point of view. He has played so much, he also knows about it. I’ve always approached every tournament in the same way. When the competition is very high in big tournaments, we are under pressure. There is tension. I think I should relax myself more in bigger tournaments. Maybe, he is right, I should treat the Olympics like any other tournament.”
Her immediate goal, though, is to do well in the Djarum Indonesia Open Super Series Premium starting Tuesday. “That is a bigger tournament with tougher competition as the top Chinese players will be there. I have to be alert and aggressive. It is only after the first round will I know how I am doing there.”
By G. Krishnan, DNA, June 11, 2012
Having started from France in May last year and pedalling across 12 European countries over seven months, Jean and Gema Francois didn't want their bicycle journey to end in Istanbul. They made an impromptu decision to tour India and came to Mumbai on January 5, 2012. What followed was a 4,000 km journey across five south Indian states in as many months.
"Whatever little we knew about India was what we had watched in films and documentaries. We wanted to explore this country, and that's why chose it over Thailand," said Gema (47), a retired marine biologist. The couple began taking long cycling trips ever since Jean retired as a bank employee in 2006.
On a sultry January day, the couple took a boat from the Gateway of India to Alibaug, from where they decided to pedal southwards, with Jean lugging 50kg on his bicycle and Gema 30kg. The couple cycled from Maharashtra to Kerala, towards Puducherry. They then travelled across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, reaching Pune in April. They were back in Colaba on June 6.
The couple said it was dangerous to have vehicles almost driving them off the road. "We were surprised to see motorists, cyclists and pedestrians share the road," said Gema.
The couple also shared that they had to cycle for 160 km over 12 hours between Ramanathapuram and Pudukottai in Tamil Nadu to find a hotel on the way.
Gema plans to write a book after going back to France. "India will be an important chapter," she said.
By Nathaniel Valthati, TNN, June 10, 2012