Bangalore: Aparna Popat has set a new national record equalling Prakash Padukone's record of winning nine consecutive national titles. Aparna beat Saina Nehwal in straight games 13-11 and 11-3 in the final of the nationals in Bangalore. The match was eagerly anticipated since Saina, an upcoming teenager who has just been signed on by the Mittals Champions Trust, had beaten Popat in a tournament last year. After the match, Aparna said she was under a lot of pressure, but handled it well. "It was a high-pressure match. I had a lot to lose. She is junior and there was no pressure on her ... I made far less errors than yesterday." With the straight set victory, the twice Olympian avenged her defeat in the Asian Satellite Championship last year, where 15-year-old Saina had bagged the title. The first game was keenly contested and went neck and neck till 10-10 before Aparna forged ahead. Even then, Saina did not give up and gave a good fight. Aparna's first national triumph was at the mini girls national event here in 1989 and the years of experience stood her in good stead. She raced ahead in the second game in no time, with Saina, who on Tuesday beat top seed Trupti Murgunde, struggling to stage a comeback. Aparna said she was looking forward to win her 10th title next year and also looking to do well at the Thomas/Uber Cup Asian zone qualifiers at Jaipur next month. "I will strive to get a medal at the Commonwealth Games," she said. On Saina, who is making waves on the Indian badminton scene in recent times, Aparna said the Hyderabad girl was "pretty strong and former All England Champion Gopichand training her is an advantage."
(With PTI inputs)