It’s Srikanth vs Axelsen

ON SONG: India’s Srikanth Kidambi returns a shot to Huang Yuxiang of China during their semifinal match in New Delhi on Saturday. PTI

Former champion Kidambi Srikanth reached the title round after a 17-month drought but P V Sindhu bowed out after losing a close semifinal contest at the USD 350,000 India Open here on Saturday.

Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who had won the event in 2017, blew four game points in the opening game to go down fighting 21-23, 18-21 to China’s He Bingjiao.

The third seed will face two-time champion Ratchanok Inthanon of Thailand in the finals Sunday.

Srikanth had entered the finals of Commonwealth Games last year but he failed to reach the summit clash in any BWF Superseries or BWF World Tour tournament since his French Open win in October 2017.

The 26-year-old from Guntur on Saturday eked out a 14-21, 21-16, 21-19 triumph over China’s Huang Yuxiang in an engrossing semifinal encounter.

He will face second seed Viktor Axelsen, who beat India’s Parupalli Kashyap 21-11, 21-17 in the other last-four tie.

In the women’s semifinal, Sindhu managed to hold an 11-8 lead at the break. She kept the shuttle in play, mixing her strokes to push Bingjiao to commit errors to lead 20-16. But Indian committed a heap of unforced errors to allow the Chinese level score.

At 21-21, a lucky net chord put Bingjiao on lead leaving Sindhu frustrated, who sent another one at the net to lose the opening game.

The second game began on an even keel as the duo rode on each other’s errors to move 8-8 before Sindhu grabbed an 11-9 advantage at the break.

The Indian stayed a step ahead, despite Bingjiao constant threat. At 16-13, a few weak returns from Sindhu allowed the Chinese to level scores.

Bingjiao quickly grabbed two points to take two match points. Sindhu then sent the next shuttler to the net to bow out.

In the men’s singles semifinals, Srikanth used his flat tosses and deep lifts to engage his rival into rallies but Huang was also up to the task before the Indian managed to hold 11-10 lead at the first break.

The duel continued before the Chinese claimed an 18-14 lead after the Indian lost a few points at the net. Srikanth saved two game points with a cross-court smash and a precise net shot before hitting wide to lose the first game.

In the second game, Srikanth came on his own, opening up an 8-4 lead after playing some exceptional strokes. A couple of smashes took him closer to the 11-mark at the interval.

The Indian continued to dominate the proceedings after the breather and roared back into the contest when the Chinese hit the net.

In the decider, Srikanth was a step ahead initially but a wrong line call, a smash going wide and a net error allowed the Chinese to make it 8-7. The Indian, however, ensured a slender 11-10 lead at the break.

After the change of sides, Srikanth constructed the rallies but ended up hitting wide and long to fall 15-17.

A precise on-the-line smash helped him to draw parity 18-18. He pounced on to a weak return and then grabbed two match points after Huang hit wide.

The Chinese saved one before hitting the net. 

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It’s Srikanth vs Axelsen

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