GOLD COAST: Saina Nehwal made up for her disappointing Rio Olympics as she defeated fellow Indian and rival P.V. Sindhu to win her second Commonwealth Games badminton singles gold on Sunday.
In a tense final, the Delhi 2010 champion staged a second-game comeback against Sindhu, the Olympic silver-medallist, to grasp a thrilling victory 21-18, 23-21.
Former world No. 1 Nehwal, 28, a poster girl of Indian sport, used her greater experience to peg back the 22-year-old Sindhu and the decisive moment came at 18-18 in the second game when a mammoth rally went Nehwal’s way.
Both players were left hunched over gasping for breath as the Gold Coast crowd rose to its feet in applause.
Nehwal, the London Olympic bronze medallist, had heavy strapping on her right shin and revealed afterwards she had been playing through pain throughout the competition.
“It was a very pressurised tournament, a lot of top competition from the Malaysians, it was a very challenging tournament,” said Nehwal, ranked 12 in the world to Sindhu’s three.
Asked how this gold ranked to the one she won on home soil eight years ago, Nehwal said: “Much more tough because the pressure is always there when you already have gold, so there is a lot more expectation.
“I put it next to my Olympic medal and my world No. 1 ranking. It’s a very emotional moment because I’ve been waiting for one good, big victory after that disappointing (second-round) loss at Rio where I had to retire because of my injury and had to go through surgery.”
In the men's final, Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei roared back from a game down to beat India's new world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth and win his third Commonwealth Games singles gold.
The 25-year-old Srikanth, who only reached the top ranking on Thursday, went some to justifying that lofty position as he raced ahead 21-19 in the first game of the final on Australia's Gold Coast.
Lee, a decade older than his opponent and approaching the end of one of badminton's great careers, stormed back in the second to take it 21-14. He stepped up another gear to clinch the deciding game 21-14.
Overcome with joy, the Malaysian collapsed on the court, lying flat on his back with his hands over his face.
Lee, who had most of the crowd on his side, now boasts a trophy haul that includes three Olympic silver medals and three Commonwealth singles golds.
His last Commonwealth singles title came at Delhi 2010 after missing the 2014 Glasgow Games with injury.
Srikanth is the first Indian to reach number one in the world in the men's rankings. Lee is currently ranked seventh.