India’s mixed badminton team put up a commanding show to clinch its maiden gold medal, defeating three-time defending champions Malaysia 3-1 in the final of the event at the 21st Commonwealth Games (CWG) here on Monday.
Kidambi Srikanth, Saina Nehwal and the mixed doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa all won a match each to guide India power past Lee Chong Wei-spearheaded Malaysia which was winning gold since the 2006 CWG. India’s gold medal match began on a strong note, with Satwik and Ashwini defeating Liu Ying Goh and Peng Soon Chan 21-14, 15-21, 21-15 in an hour and five minutes to make it 1-0. It was a crucial win considering Malaysia possess strong doubles pairs.
World No.2 Srikanth shone brightly with a 21-17, 21-14 win over veteran Chong Wei in 43 minutes to hand India a 2-0 lead. It was Srikanth’s first win in five matches against the world No.6 Malaysian, who has grabbed runners-up medals three times each in the Olympics and the World Championships.
India’s men’s doubles contest, the pair of Satwik and Chirag Shetty, lost to Olympic silver medal-winning pair of V. Shem Goh and Tan Wee Kiong 15-21, 20-22 in 38 minutes as Malaysia kept the tie alive. In the fourth match, world No.12 Saina Nehwal brought her experience to the fore as she got past world No.29 Soniia Cheah 21-11, 19-21, 21-9 in an hour and five minutes. The win sealed the issue for India, which failed to return with a medal in this category from the 2014 Glasgow CWG.
So as Srikanth had a comfortable outing in his single’s game, Saina had a rather contrary game to say the least. The former World number 1 won the first game 21-11 and despite starting the second one in style, she squandered her advantage to go down 21-19, forcing the match to be decided in the third game. By the third and final break, Saina had a two-point lead over the opponent – 11-9 – and ten back to back points means she didn’t even allow Soniia Cheah to grab a point. A 21-9 win in the final game ensured India’s gold and that meant the Women’s Doubles’ pair of N. Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa didn’t have to come for their match.
With the win, India lifted their 10th gold in the Commonwealth Games. Lifted their crown only an hour after the Men’s Table Tennis contingent won their Gold.