Jakarta: Olympic silver medallist and two-time World Championship runners-up PV Sindhu fought a brave fight to set herself up for a historic title clash in Asian Games Women’s Singles with a defeat of World No 2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan 21-17, 15-21, 21-10, on Monday.
This will be Sindhu’s fifth chance to redeem herself after having made to settle for the silver finish in every big event where she made it to the summit clash.
Her journey of those near misses started two years ago when she lost to Spain’s Carolina Marin in the Rio Olympics final before she failed to clear the final hurdle at two back-to-back World Championships-the latest being last month where she again lost to Marin.
Early this year, Sindhu had earned another big chance when she made it to the final at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, but in that engrossing contest Saina Nehwal upstaged her.
All those losses will come to the fore on Tuesday when Sindhu takes on Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying, who eliminated a sluggish Saina in straight sets, 21-17, 21-14.
The Indian, who had the chance to set up yet another all-India final, came up cropper as Saina struggled to return deep shots from the World No 1, Tai in the second game, which she lost tamely in 37 minutes.
However, Saina will have the satisfaction of being the only the third Indian badminton player to win a medal at the Asian Games-the first being Syed Modi in 1982.
“Ying played much better “Saina admitted and added “If I had worked harder, I could have given her a tougher fight,”.
“I was conceding errors and once she took a three point-lead, then it was tough to come back. She was on fire. She had lost in the World Championships (quarterfinals) to He Bingjiao, so she was trying to finish this match as quickly as possible,” said Saina.
Ying controlled the game and she knew the weak points of her rival which she exploited well. “I was focused and never lost my concentration” said Ying adding “Saina is not an easy player to beat”
“The draw was tough, I had to face the World No. 1 in the semi-finals, and when you’re not ranked higher, you might have to face the best players in the earlier rounds. I’m happy that I gave her a tough fight today. We came here well-prepared,” she added.
Later, Sindhu survived mid-game scare before she ousted Yamaguchi in three games to become first Indian to make it to final of Asian Games badminton competition.
Sindhu played aggressively to overcome Yamaguchi in a marathon match that lasted 69 minutes and recorded her second win over the Japanese at the Asian Games, having beaten her in the team championship as well.
In the process, it was sweet revenge for the 23-year-old Indian after having suffered against Yamaguchi in the All England semi-finals early this year.
Sindhu, despite having advantage of height and powerful returns, was taken to length by the stocky Japanese. The girl from Hyderabad took time to settle down as she was bit tentative to start with, committing many a unforced error.
The Indian however regrouped herself quickly to regain the control of the proceedings. The Japanese tried to unnerve Sindhu as she attacked from the start. However, Sindhu took advantage of her height and countered her rivals’ strokes with ease.
The Olympics silver medallist dominated the court with her swift movements and opened up 11-8 lead at the first break. She was solid at the net, and with powerful strokes and returns gave no quarter to her short statured rival, who in desperation committed several unforced errors.
The Indian sealed the game when she led 20-17 and Yamaguchi returned the smash wide. In the second game too, Sindhu surprisingly looked tentative as she committed errors and lost the game 15-21.
However, Sindhu was in her usual attacking mode in the third game in which she virtually decimated her rival to win the game 21-10, and the match.
“I played well though I lost the second game,” Sindhu said, adding “It is a very tough tournament and everybody plays for the country.”