Reigning world champion P V Sindhu kept alive Indias hopes of a first-ever Olympic gold in badminton by reaching the semifinals of the womens singles with a straight-game win over world No.5 Japanese Akane Yamaguchi here on Friday.
The 26-year-old Indian, who won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, defended brilliantly and rode on her attacking all-round game to outclass the fourth seeded Yamaguchi 21-13 22-20 in a 56-minute quarterfinal clash at the Musashino Forest Plaza here.
“The first game was mostly under my control. I was gaining the lead but I didnt take it easy because in her previous matches she came back. But I maintained the lead and finished it off,” Sindhu, seeded sixth, said.
“In the second game I was leading but then she came back. But I still fought back, I never lost hope and I continued with the same tempo. I am very much happy with the way I controlled the shuttle, not many errors,” she added.
Yamaguchi had scripted a late comeback in the second game, grabbing two game points but Sindhu ensured there were no hiccups, registering her 12th win over Yamaguchi in 19 meetings. She had last beaten the Japanese at the All England Championship in March this year.
“I wasnt nervous even though she was at game point, my coach was saying: Its okay, keep the focus and youll get there. He was constantly supporting me and that got me by and Im happy I got back in two games,” Sindhu said.
“I have really worked hard for this and it is not over it. For me its time to go back, relax and get ready for the next match. Im happy but I need to prepare for the next match.” Sindhu will next face second seed Chinese Taipeis Tai Tzu Ying, who edged out Thailands Ratchanok Inthanon 14-21 21-18 21-18 in another quarterfinal match.
Chinas Chen Yu Fei and He Bing Jiao are the other two semifinalists.
The world No 1 Tai Tzu, whom coach Park Tae-sang considers as Sindhus biggest rival, has an overwhelming 13-7 advantage against the Indian.
Sindhu, who has lost to Tai Tzu in last three occasions, however, has managed to outwit the Taiwanese shuttler in important events such as the 2016 Rio Games, 2019 World Championships and 2018 World Tour Finals.
In the match, Yamaguchi tried to play an aggressive game but Sindhu held her ground and used her good anticipation and reach to stay ahead. The Indian unleashed her attacking returns whenever there was a chance to put pressure on her rival.
The opening game saw Sindhu quickly erase a 2-4 deficit to level the scores at 6-6. Yamaguchi committed few unforced errors to allow the Indian to move ahead and enter the interval at 11-7 with a cross court smash.
Sindhu used her fore court well and took charge of the net. The duo played some good rallies at a good pace but Yamaguchi couldnt find an answer in the exchanges. The Japanese was also too erratic.
Sindhu eventually produced a winner near the net and grabbed the first game when Yamaguchi sent long a return-to-serve.
Sindhu dictated the pace and seemed in total control, starting the second game with two superb smashes for a 2-0 early lead.
She kept her unforced errors to the bare minimum even as Yamaguchi committed a service error and playing against the drift, struggled to keep the shuttle in.
A superb net dribble and a cross court smash helped Sindhu to take a five-point advantage at the break.
However, a relentless Yamaguchi tried to extend the rallies and managed to pocket eight of the next nine points from 8-13 to open up a slender one-point lead at 16-15 for the first time.
One of the highlight was the Japanese, known for her retrieving skills, dragging Sindhu into an energy-sapping rally which had an extraordinary 54-stroke exchange. It ended with Yamaguchi sending the shuttle at the backhand of Sindhu, who was gasping for breath.
With Yamaguchi defending well, Sindhu was forced to go close to the lines. She made errors in the process as the Japanese led 18-16.
Yamaguchi grabbed two game points, fuelling hope of a turnaround but Sindhu responded with authority. She unleashed a straight-down-the-line smash and then set up another point with a smash and a great follow-up to make it 20-20.
Another precise half smash down the line gave her a match point and she screamed her heart out in joy after Yamaguchi found the net next.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)