Saina, Srikanth lift China Open

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Fozhou: Olympic bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal clinched the $ 700,000 China Open Super Series Premier tournament after beating young Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in the summit clash, in Fuzhou on Sunday.

The World No. 5 Indian prevailed over the 17-year-old Akane 21-12 22-20 in the women’s singles finals which lasted 42 minutes at the Haixia Olympic Sport Centre.

Young Indian shuttler K Srikanth clinched his maiden Super Series title after defeating two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China in the men’s singles events of China Open Super Series Premier.

The 21-year-old from Andhra Pradesh showed nerves of steel to produce a dominating performance which helped him see off five-time world champion Lin 21-19 21-17 in the men’s singles final which lasted 46 minutes here.

Srikanth, who won the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold last year, had finished runners-up at the 2014 India Open Grand Prix Gold event in Lucknow and was a quarter-finalist in this year’s Malaysian Open.

He was also a part of the Indian badminton contingent that reached the semifinals of the mixed team event at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

This is the first time any Indian male shuttler has won a Super Series Premier event ever since the Super Series and Premier tournaments were introduced.

This is Saina’s third title of the year as the Indian had won the Australian Super Series in June, besides clinching the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold early in the year.

In her sixth appearance in the prestigious tournament, Saina had to draw from her reservoir of experience to stave off the challenge of the athletic Akane.

In the opening game, Saina led 3-1 early on and extended it to 8-4. She lost few points due to miscued strokes but the Indian managed to go into the interval with a four-point lead with the help of an angled stroke and down the line smash.

Saina controlled the shuttle and the pace of the game and forced her young rival to commit errors, opening up a healthy 14-7 lead.

Akane showed sparks of brilliance but it was not enough to threaten Saina, who moved into game point with a delicate net shot and then a disguised return to earn the bragging rights.

Akane produced a better performance in the second game.

The 17-year-old was quick on her legs and bothered Saina with her straight smashes to enter the break with a slender 11-9 lead.

The closing moments of the second game turned out to be nerve-wrecking as both the shuttlers engaged in aggressive rallies before the experienced Indian clawed her way back at 14-14.

Saina mixed her strokes well to dominate the rallies but she still found it difficult to find a chink in the Japanese’s armour who returned everything that was directed at her.

At 18-18, Saina earned a point with a disguised net shot but the Indian hit one long and then missed another point to allow Akane to close in at 20-19. However, a couple of long shots by the Japanese swung the match other way, sealing the title in the Indian’s name.