India ace shuttler Saina Nehwal snapped her 15-month title drought, clinching the India Grand Prix Gold badminton crown with a straight-game victory over compatriot PV Sindhu in the women's singles competition, here on Sunday.
The London Olympics bronze medallist staved off the challenge from Sindhu 21-14 21-17 in the women's singles summit clash, which lasted 40 minutes at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium here.
The two-time champion was tested by her younger colleague but Saina kept her nerve to eventually break a 15-month title drought after appearing in her 22nd final of her international career.
"It's an emotional moment for me. Loved the support I got. Lucknow has been my favourite city, I won my first title here in 2009. It feels good to win again. The win was more special as it came after such a long time," she said moments after her victory.
"Sindhu played very well. It was a great match and the crowd enjoyed it. She is great player, and also in top-10. I am happy that I pulled it off.
"I was little nervous as I was playing in a final after a long time. But things went well for me," said Saina, who had last reached a final in the French Super Series in October, 2012.
Luck was on Saina's side as a couple of controversial line calls helped the 23-year-old to lead 3-0 initially and then she extended it to 5-0.
Sindhu earned her first point when Saina hit wide but the Commonwealth Games champion kept the pressure on her with some smashes to lead 8-2.
Sindhu slowly started retrieving the shuttles and engaged in rallies to narrow down the lead to 5-8 but she was erratic at finishing the points and lagged 5-11 at the break.
After the breather, Sindhu scored with the help of her accurate over the head smashes and smart net play to narrow it to 11-14. But she once again faltered with the length of her returns to allow Saina lead 19-13.
A long rally and an accurate smash and another point. It was advantage Saina after the first game.
Sindhu started the second game on an aggressive note and moved to a 4-0 lead. Saina soon started dictating terms and erased the deficit at 5-5.
While Saina used all her experience, Sindhu used her long arms and height to keep the shuttles at cross courts to lead 8-6 at one stage.
But Saina used her deceptive shots and body line smashes to turn the tables, leading 12-9. With Sindhu once again hitting wide and long, Saina led 15-10. Sindhu won a long rally but a better net play took Saina to 19-13.
At this stage, Sindhu gather three points but a low flick return went to the nets and that gave four match points to Saina.
A controversial line call helped Sindhu save a match point but Saina caught her junior opponent at the nets to complete the formalities without wasting any more time.
This is Saina's third straight victory over Sindhu. The two had played at the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) last year where Saina got the better of the Sindhu on two occasions.
Saina had been battling a poor form and injury issues for more than a year now, which saw her slip to world number nine this week from ranked second.
This win has helped her earn 7000 points and will also allow her to climb the ranking ladder.
National champion K Srikanth went down fighting against China's Xue Song 21-16 19-21 13-21 in the men's singles final.
Srikanth could not master the fast moving Chinese despite coming up with a fine performance in the match that lasted 38 minutes.
It was the World No. 30 Indian, who got off the blocks first and always held an upper hand in the opening game, during which he first won seven consecutive points before pocketing nine more points on the trot to win it comfortably.
The Thailand Grand Prix Gold champion looked like he would easily seal the match in his favour as he raced to a 19-12 lead in the second game but Song was not willing to throw in the towel. The Chinese raised the tempo by playing flat and fast badminton.
Eager to close the match, Srikanth went on the offensive and committed errors that allowed Song to win nine points in a row and take the match to the decider.
Song, ranked 50th, went on to win six points in the third game before Srikanth could get on the scoreboard. The Chinese then kept on moving ahead, always maintaining a comfortable lead. At the end, he had very little trouble in wrapping up the match.