Saina becomes first Indian to win two singles golds in badminton

ESPN staff5 Minute Read
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Saina Nehwal became the first Indian to win two singles golds at the Commonwealth Games after defeating PV Sindhu 21-18, 23-21 in a hard-fought final in the women's singles on Sunday. Saina had also won the title in 2010 in New Delhi. The win meant that she won all her 12 matches in Gold Coast and stayed unbeaten throughout in the tournament.

It was Saina who got off to the better start and led 11-6 at the changeover in the opening game as she tried to move Sindhu around the court and made her lunge forward after pushing her deep frequently. Saina, in fact, had won two of their three career meetings and had also defeated Sindhu in the final of the national championships last year.

Saina had missed the last edition in Glasgow, where Sindhu won bronze, and she looked hungry to become the first Indian to win two singles golds in badminton at the quadrennial event.

Despite being troubled by injuries over the last two years and playing her 11th match in 11 days, Saina showed no signs of fatigue and her movement was way better than it has been at any time this year.

Saina had six game points in the opening game at 20-14 but Sindhu saved four of them before Saina eventually won the opening game in 22 minutes.

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Sindhu led 11-8 at the changeover in the second game but it was Saina who was dictating the play and making Sindhu work hard and dig deep to win points.

However, Saina then seized control again and the turning point came when she won a really long rally while trailing 17-19 where Sindhu showed sublime defence but eventually had no answers to Saina's sustained attack.

Saina's big match temperament was the difference in the end. She has only lost 7 of the 18 finals she has reached at the major events (Commonwealth Games, World Championships, Superseries events and World Tour 500 and above events). By contrast, Sindhu's record in the finals of these events and the Olympics stood at 3-6.

Having not lost a single game in her run to the final, Sindhu failed to win a single game in the final and made more errors than usual as Saina's improved movement exhausted her.

Silver for Srikanth

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Three days after attaining the World No. 1 ranking in men's singles, Kidambi Srikanth settled for silver at the Commonwealth Games. He lost 21-19, 14-21, 14-21 to Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei to seal India's 19th silver and 65th medal overall in this edition.

The match started with Lee going full throttle, putting his aggressive game on display, as he smashed his way to a 5-0 lead. Srikanth then made wise use of the angles to bridge the gap to 4-5. His cross-court smashes were on point, as he took over the lead for the first time in the match at 8-7. Srikanth then dictated play from the net to lead 11-9 at the changeover. Lee struggled to keep up with Srikanth's smashes but kept showing glimpses of his brilliance, forcing the Indian to hit a few shots wide as they leveled again at 14-14. The two players went neck-and-neck - Srikanth focused on aggression while Lee tried to control the net - as they stayed level till 19-19. With a half smash and smart net play over the next two shots, Srikanth took a one-game lead.

The second game continued in similar fashion, with both players staying level till 9-9, before Srikanth erred at the net as Lee led 11-9 at the changeover. Srikanth bounced back quickly, channelising his improved defence to take the game to 12-13, before Lee put him under pressure with his command over the net to lead 17-13. A classic net shot from Lee put him two points away from the second game, soon after which he successfully forced a decider.

Lee continued with the momentum that he had set in the previous game to take a quick 3-0 lead in the decider. Confusing Srikanth with his deceptive style of net play, he raced to a 7-1 lead in the next few minutes. Even as Srikanth attempted to come back with his trademark down-the-line smashes and aggression, Lee's aggression helped him lead 11-5 at the changeover. Lee shot all across the court, displaying an impressive range of shots as he led by seven points at 14-7. Lee continued to storm his way to the gold, leading 18-10 when Srikanth displayed his deceptive play, forcing the Malaysian to hit make a few errors as he reduced the deficit to 14-19. An unforced error at the net then gave the Lee the match point, soon after which he converted it to take the top spot.

Trailing in the head-to-head by 1-4, Srikanth had previously met Lee at the Sudirman Cup in 2015, where the Malaysian had defeated him in straight games. At this Commonwealth Games, however, when the two met in the Mixed Team Gold Medal match, Srikanth went past the former World No. 1 21-17, 21-14 in 43 minutes.

35-year-old Lee now has six medals at the Commonwealth Games. He had formerly won four golds in men's singles and Mixed Team respectively in 2006 and 2010, along with one silver in the Mixed Team event at this year's Commonwealth Games. For 25-year-old Srikanth, this win came as his second medal at the Games - the previous one coming in India's gold medal run in the Mixed Team event in this edition.

Young Satwiksairaj-Chirag impress in silver medal finish

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Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty won India's first ever medal in men's doubles at the Commonwealth Games after losing 13-21, 16-21 in the final to England's Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge.

Rankireddy and Shetty were a pivotal part of the team which won gold in the mixed team event after defeating Malaysia in the final. They are ranked 21st in the world, one spot above Ellis and Langridge.

Ellis and Langridge had won bronze at the Rio Olympics and Langridge had won bronze in the same event in Glasgow four years ago with his then partner Peter Mills.

Playing in the biggest match of their life, the young Indian pair's inexperience cost them as the vastly experienced English duo slowed the pace of the match down and also focused on making the Indians play closer to the net.