New Delhi: Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal notched up an incredible hat-trick of titles by successfully defending her Indonesia Open Super Series trophy with a hard-fought win over Japan’s Sayaka Sato here on Sunday.
The top seeded world number three defeated her unseeded but resolute rival 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 in a roller-coaster encounter that lasted 45 minutes.
This was Saina’s third successive title, having won the Indian Open Grand Prix at home and the Singapore Open Super Series Tournament last week. This is also the 20-year-old’s third Super Series title overall.
In a see-saw battle, the 19-year-old Sato matched the defending champion shot for shot for most part of the opening game but was undone by her own mistakes at crucial junctures.
The first game that lasted 14 minutes had both the players tied 11-11 at one stage and though Saina remained ahead for most part after that, a gritty Sato did have her share of chances.
Leading 20-18, Saina could have finished it off on her own serve but she handed Sato a chance by hitting the shuttle wide.
But Sato could not capitalise and smacked a forehand into the net to give Saina the opening game.
The second game saw Sato making a comeback with the change of ends also leading to a change in fortunes. The Japanese proved to be the more dominant of the two players in these 15 minutes as she raced to a 4-9 lead.
Sato sent down some powerful shots from the baseline and Saina could only watch as they fell out of her range. The frustration of being out-witted by a rival ranked 26th in the world showed when Saina clinched her fist at one of Sato’s unforced errors.
"Her game was a little different from what I saw when I faced her in 2008. She had a lot of different strokes which troubled me but I was confident," Saina said.
Shaken by the setback, Saina roared back in the decisive third game. The Indian took a comprehensive 11-5 lead but continuing her never-say-die attitude, Sato reduced the margin to 9-13.
The Indian, however, was in no mood to slip up and emerged triumphant after reeling off four successive points.
A jubilant Saina let out a huge scream after winning the title, which also made her richer by USD 18,750.
Saina said she is now focussing on the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
"The World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games are important. I am very happy that I am coming up in rankings but for me it’s more important to win the tournaments," the indomitable Hyderabadi said.
Asked whether she expected the unbeaten run, Saina said, "I never expected to win three tournaments in a row and this has helped my confidence. It’s a memorable victory for me. I really enjoyed every day of being here," she said.
Looking back at the match, Saina lauded her spirited rival.
"The first game was close. Sato gave a tough fight. In the second game she was very strong and I couldn’t defend. But in the third game, I caught her on the net," she said. (PTI)