Prime Sports, International (London), March 20:- It was more like a boxing bout that went the distance. Both PV Sindhu and Akane Yamaguchi, it seemed, were throwing punches at each other, despite not having enough gas left in their tanks.
As badminton great and commentator Morten Frost quipped on-air, both the shuttlers were killing each other as the rallies got longer and longer when the All England Championships quarter-final match slipped past the hour mark.
It was a badminton match for the ages as World No. 7 PV Sindhu and World No. 5 Akane Yamaguchi gave it their all on the court in Birmingham. In the end, it was the Indian shuttler, the reigning world champion, who managed to hold on to the nerves and win the quarter-final match 16-21, 21-16, 21-19 in 76 minutes.
With the breathtaking win, Sindhu ended a 3-match losing streak against Yamaguchi, against whom she now holds an 11-7 head-to-head record.
Sindhu will take on 6th seed Ponpawee Chochuwong in the semi-finals on Saturday. Notably, the Indian shuttler has a 4-1 head-to-head record against her Thai opponent. In their last meeting which came at the World Tour Finals earlier this year, Sindhu managed a comfortable straight-game victory.
Sindhu booked a semi-final berth, only for the second time in her career at the prestigious Super 1000 tournament. Sindhu’s best finish at the All England Championships came in 2018 when she reached the last four only to be outclassed by her Friday’s opponent Akane Yamaguchi.
At one point in the final game, Sindhu looked like running out of steam as the microphones at the empty Birmingham Arena were able to pick up the sound of heavy breathing from the Indian shuttler. But she stitched a run of 3 straight points to head into the break with a handy lead.
Winning points did give Sindhu extra energy motivation and Sindhu just clung on to it to pip Yamaguchi, who was playing only her second match of the year.
Sindhu is the only Indian standing at the All England Open 2021 after 19-year-old Lakshya Sen and women’s doubles pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy exited the tournament in the quarter-finals on Friday.
It was not going to be easy against Yamaguchi, who is known to possess one of the best defensive games on the tour. And Sindhu was trailing 13-17 in the first game but managed to stitch a run of 3 successive points before Yamaguchi closed down the first game in a flash.
However, Sindhu upped her attacking approach in the 2nd game to put pressure on the Japanese shuttler. Both shuttlers came up with some awe-inspiring shots but Sindhu made sure she held on to the lead and forced a decider.
Sindhu made full use of her height as she controlled the rallies, pushing the shuttle to the backcourt more often than not and hitting winners by beating Yamaguchi at the frontcourt. Yamaguchi, it seemed, was struggling with spatial awareness as she made quite a few judgment errors. Sindhu closed down the 2nd game with a similar 21-16 scoreline.
In the decider, the rallies kept getting longer and longer. Both Sindhu and Yamaguchi were running out of breath as they took multiple mini-breaks in between points in a bid to try and stay in the game.
Sindhu made sure she had the psychological advantage at the break with a 2-point lead. Sindhu stitched a run of 4 points to make it 13-9 but Yamaguchi was not going to go away.
The Japanese shuttler made it 15-15 but it was remarkable to see Sindhu not letting her opponent run away with the game despite showing signs of fatigue. Sindhu went for the big push by giving it her all towards the end and it worked in her favour as she converted her first match point to clinch a memorable win. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).