Mumbai: Saina Nehwal is only 22! But, she has broken enough records in Indian sport to be called a living legend. On a typical cold Sunday evening in Copenhagen, Saina cat-walked her way to yet another honour. She became the only Indian after Prakash Padukone (in 1980) to win a Danish Open Superseries title. And that too, without dropping a single game in the tournament.
Her 21-17, 21-8 victory in the final over Juliane Schenk of Germany was as emphatic as it was cruelly one-sided. An elated Pullela Gopichand, who has coached and nurtured Saina since she was 13, said after the final: "Saina was sharp, exceedingly efficient and explosive when it mattered. This was a drubbing and she was comfortable almost throughout, especially in the second game which was one-sided."
This is her sixth Superseries title - a premier event in the sport - and like the Indonesian Open earlier in the year, this one too has cemented her place among the legends of world badminton. The Denmark Open was a huge field with three of the top-most Chinese stars competing.
The star-studded line-up included World No 1 and London Olympics silver medallist Wang Yihan, whom Saina had never beaten in their last six clashes. The heart-wrenching losses included a one-sided win for Wang in the semi-finals at London.
In Copenhagen though, Saina was in a different zone. The Hyderabadi hammered Wang 21-12, 12-7 in the semis before the lanky Chinese retired. The final frontier was thus conquered, and the fabled Chinese wall was demolished.
Saina has well and truly arrived! There is no one among the top players who she has not defeated. All the best names of her generation have now bitten the dust.
"It is all due to her work ethic. She is a glutton for hard work. She never says no for any sort of training schedule. And what is most mind-boggling for me, is that I can feel that her best is yet to come.
"Saina is just 22, still learning a few things. But what is important is that the more she wins, the more she wants to learn," said Gopi.
I never expected to win here: Saina
Olympic bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal was not expecting to win the Denmark Open due to a slight niggle in her right knee. But she battled through the pain to triumph here and that to without dropping a set.
The 22-year-old defeated sixth seed German Juliane Schenk 21-17 21-8 in 35 minutes. Saina, who had beaten World No 1 Yihan Wang in the semi-finals, said: "I never expected to win this tournament. There were a lot of things which I did after Olympics which made me fresh but every tournament is tough. My right knee was not really in perfect shape but I thank god for giving me the energy to win the title."