Saina Nehwal started the new year in the best possible manner after beating Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong 22-20, 22-20 in the women’s singles final of the $120,000 Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold in Sibu on Sunday to lift her first title since coming back from the knee injury she had sustained during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The Indian badminton ace recovered from a poor start in the first game to stave off the 19-year-old Chochuwong in the final. Saina’s last title win was at the Australian Open in June 2016.
The top seeded Saina trailed Chochuwong 0-4 in the first game at one point. The Thai teenager, who was celebrating her 19th birthday on Sunday, then extended her lead to 11-5. However, Saina displayed great resilience to come back and save a game point later in the game, before winning it 22-20.
The second game was a close affair as well, with Saina and Chochuwong offering each other little breathing space. However, the experienced Saina dug deep after going 17-16 ahead to carve out four match points.
Chochwong fought back again, saving all the match points to tie the game at 20-20. Saina then won the next two points to win the match and her first title of the year. The Indian star needed a total of 46 minutes to win the summit clash.
Indian players have previously had considerable success on Malaysian turf with PV Sindhu having won the title twice, in 2013 and 2016. Saina had herself reached the final of the tournament back in 2011.