Super Sindhu gives hope

Super Sindhu gives hope

Super Sindhu gives hope

In every champion sportsperson’s life, there comes a moment that defines his or her space in the sport. For P V Sindhu, the moment probably arrived at the Riocentro Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Playing the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games badminton, Sindhu knocked out the second seed and former world number one Wang Yihan of China 22-10, 21-19 to enter the semifinals of the women’s singles, becoming the sole focus of a sorry Indian campaign.

The 21-year-old from Hyderabad has beaten Wang and the other top players before but given the occasion and the pressure she was under, Tuesday’s win will carry a special significance. After the exciting victory, she is now a touch away from a medal, having set up a last-four meeting with Nozomi Okuhara, the sixth seed, on Thursday. A win will ensure a medal for Sindhu. A defeat will send her to the bronze medal play-off.

“If I focus on my game, the medal will take care of itself. I hope to give my best,” said Sindhu. “This is one of the best matches I have played, I hope there will be many more.”

With several Indian medal hopefuls falling by the wayside, the burden of expectations is firmly on Sindhu’s shoulders in the final few days. On this day, she rose to the occasion superbly. Wang, after a below-par last year, had bounced back well this season. The former world number one, a silver medallist from London, is always a potent threat but Sindhu neutralised it with a combination of skill, spirit and supreme focus.

Sindhu was on the backfoot several times in the first game, thanks to her eagerness to finish off points quickly. But she refused to give up, learned from her mistakes and reined in her streak of impatience. She moved the Chinese around, looking for openings to unleash her smashes and placements. In a closely fought game, Wang had her nose in front almost always but the stubbornness of the Indian chipped away at her confidence.

The decisive moment in the toe-to-toe tussle arrived when Sindhu caught up at 18 and moved ahead 19-18. The rallies were getting longer and the Chinese was getting frustrated. Sindhu then came out the winner at the end of a 46-stroke rally and though Wang caught up at 20-all, the Indian wrapped up the game on extra points when the Chinese put a forehand wide.

Wang seemed a bit demoralised by the loss of the first game as Sindhu kept up the pressure in the second. A comfortable win seemed to be on the cards for Sindhu when she led 18-13. The sight of victory made her a bit anxious and Wang won six points in a row to lead 19-18.

With the crowd firmly behind her and coach Pullela Gopichand asking her to steady herself, Sindhu regrouped to assert her dominance. Two killer smashes fetched her match point and soon, she was sprawled on the court in celebration as Wang netted a forehand.

“I went into the match expecting many long rallies,” said Sindhu. “She played brilliantly, we have both won matches against each other, each match is different, it’s just that I managed to come on top today.”

Sindhu does not have an impressive record against her semifinal rival. In four matches, she has lost three. All their four matches have gone to three games. On Tuesday, in an all Japanese quarterfinal, Okuhara defeated Akane Yamaguchi 11-21, 21-17, 21-10.

The other semifinal will be between the third seed Li Xuerui of China and world champion Carolina Marin of Spain. Li defeated Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand 21-12, 21-17 while Marin ousted Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea 21-12, 21-16.
DH News Service

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