Sindhu beats Saina to enter India Open semis

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New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) P.V. Sindhu got the better of Saina Nehwal in a riveting all-Indian quarter-final of the India Open World Superseries badminton championships at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here on Friday.

Sindhu, the 2016 Olympic runner-up, registered a 21-16, 22-20 victory in 47 minutes over the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist.

The match between the two biggest faces of Indian badminton confused the fans, who urged on both Saina and Sindhu. It was a match that pitted in-form star Sindhu against a veteran, who used to be her benchmark not so long ago.

Sindhu, thanks to her late performances, has come out of Saina’s shadows and stakes were high for both players. Saina, who admittedly is yet to gain full fitness after recovering from the knee injury, impressed one and all and showed that she is regaining her sharp reflexes.

Saina began strongly, matching Sindhu stroke per stroke. Her bodyline shots on Sindhu seemed to be a pre-game tactic and it rattled Sindhu throughout the match. However, Sindhu, rising a wave of confidence, didn’t flinch. Her repertoire of strokes gave, particularly the cross-court ones, her a 15-9 advantage, thanks to a spell of six successive points from nine.

With a six-point gap, it seemed easy for Sindhu but Saina, the fighter and the determined competitor that she is, tried to carve out a fierce comeback but Sindhu held on to her advantage to clinch the first game 21-16.

Even though Saina lost the first game, her late charge gave her some sort of momentum that she carried into the second game. Her bodyline shots created trouble for Sindhu again and the 21-year-old always had to play catch-up game.

Moreover, Saina showed her experienced as she dictated the pace of the game. Her preference of playing move the shuttle fast gave her a 12-7 crucial lead. Having put a lot of energy and power to be in the lead, Saina looked a bit tired and it allowed Sindhu to comeback.

Sindhu, who is six years younger than Saina, is at her peak and she doesn’t not hesitate playing long rallies. She was aided by Saina’s tiredness as the latter placed couple of shots wide and long. Sindhu also snatched couple of points by smashing cross-court to the left of Saina, who couln’t reply.

At the 19-point mark, Sindhu equalised and then Saina played another successful bodyline stroke to be one point away from taking the tie to the third game. But a ruthless Sindhu fought back to be at 20-all.

Then, Saina made her first service error at this critical juncture and Sindhu made the most of it. She followed it up with another powerful stroke and the game over, match sealed.

With this win, double World Championship bronze medallist Sindhu equalised 1-1 in head-to-head record against Saina.

In the semi-final, Sindhu will face South Korean second seed Sung ji Hyun, who defeated former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 21-16, 22-20.

The other semi-final will be fought between Top seed and 2016 Olympic champion Carolina Marin and Japanese fourth seed Akane Yamaguchi.

Spaniard Marin won against Japanese Minatsu Mitani 21-10, 20-22, 21-14 to set-up a clash against another Japanese. Yamaguchi got the better of compatriot seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara 21-13, 11-21, 21-18.

–IANS

pur/dg

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