Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Olympics: India's PV Sindhu enters semis, keeps medal hopes alive

Filed on July 30, 2021
PV Sindhu during her match on Friday. (Twitter)

Sindhu saved two game points against Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in the quarterfinal

Reigning world champion PV Sindhu kept alive India's hopes of a first-ever Olympic gold in badminton by reaching the semifinals of the women's singles with a straight-game win over world No.5 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in Tokyo on Friday.

The 26-year-old Sindhu, 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.

“I'm happy but it's not over yet. For me it's time to go back, relax and get ready for the next match. I'm happy but I need to prepare for the next match,” Sindhu said.

In the semifinal, Sindhu will face world number one Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) who beat Thailand's Ratchanok Inthanon 14-21 21-18, 21-18.

A win in the semifinal will confirm Sindhu’s place on the podium. But if she fails in the semifinal hurdle against Tai Tzu, Sindhu will have to play a bronze medal playoff against the other losing semifinalist.

The sixth-seeded Indian came into Friday’s quarterfinal with an 11-7 head-to-head record against Yamaguchi, whom she had last beaten at the All England Championship in March this year.

Yamaguchi tried to play an aggressive game but Sindhu held her ground and used her good anticipation and reach to stay ahead. The Indian used her attacking smashes and half smashes whenever there was a chance to put pressure on her rival.

After a comfortable win in the first game, Sindhu made a fine start to the second game, taking a 13-8 lead.

But Yamaguchi grabbed eight of the next nine points to open up a slender one-point lead at 16-15 for the first time in the match.

The only time Yamaguchi, who is known for her retrieving skills, could drag Sindhu into an energy-sapping rally was at 15-13 when the duo 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.

A superb net shot saw Yamaguchi grab two game points, fueling 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.

The tall Indian let out a roar after Yamaguchi found the net on the match point.

“There were some very long rallies. The second game was very important, I was leading and Akane came back - so I couldn't relax,” Sindhu admitted.

“On my side there were a few errors. I wasn't nervous even though she was at game point, my coach was saying: ‘It's okay, keep the focus and you'll get there'. He was constantly supporting me and I'm happy I got back in two games.”

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