Wednesday, August 17, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
PV Sindhu won a pulsating battle against London 2012 silver medallist Wang Yihan to enter the Women’s Singles semi-finals today.
The Indian will face Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, while China’s Li Xuerui takes on Spain’s Carolina Marin in a battle between the Olympic champion and the two-time World champion.
In the last match of the day, China’s Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, Mixed Doubles defending champions who crashed out in the semi-finals, handed compatriots Xu Chen and Ma Jin a whipping in the bronze medal playoff.
The Sindhu-Wang Yihan match was the most fiercely fought contest of the second session. The high-intensity match saw supreme athleticism and skill from both players; Sindhu’s powerful attack helped her set the tempo; Wang stayed close behind thanks to her grit. Both games hung by a thread: in the opener Sindhu saw three game points lost to the tremendous retrieval skills of her opponent; in the second, the Indian appeared to be cruising at 18-13, but once again Wang bounced back.
The Chinese reeled off six points in a row before Sindhu regained the initiative by rushing her opponent’s serve; match point was won by a savage smash. The memorable battle ended with Wang sending a tired shot into the net.
“I went into the match expecting many long rallies,” said Sindhu. “I was prepared for a long and tough match. She played brilliantly. We’ve both won matches against each other; each match is different. It’s just that I managed to come on top today.”
Wang Yihan was unstinting in her praise for Sindhu: “My opponent played very well. Actually, even though I lost, it wasn’t a bad experience. The match was very close. Maybe I didn’t take the right decisions at the last moment. I made some mistakes at the end.”
Asked if this was her last international match, Wang replied cryptically: “maybe”.
Nozomi Okuhara’s dominance over compatriot Akane Yamaguchi continued. Okuhara, pushed on the backfoot by Yamaguchi’s all-out attacking game in the opener, worked her way back in, and once her quicksilver feet found their rhythm, Yamaguchi ran into a wall. Okuhara retrieved impossible shots, over and over again, until her opponent simply ran out of ideas, going down 11-21 21-17 21-10.
The two opening Women’s Singles matches were both one-sided affairs. World champion Carolina Marin was brutal against Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, using her superior power and pace to blow the Korean’s defence to smithereens, 21-12 21-16. Sung cut a lonely figure; she made a brief recovery in the second game, but there was no doubt on who the winner would be.
“I showed I wanted to beat her and I didn’t give her any opportunities,” said Marin, oozing confidence. “It looked quite easy, but it was important to keep my focus and I want to maintain that for the next match.”
China’s Li Xuerui had a little bit more trouble from Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk. Having suffered a first game whitewash, the Thai fought back well and even had the lead, until Li blew in once again and stopped her at 21-12 21-17.
Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei didn’t give their compatriots Xu/Ma a chance. They were on the button from the beginning, making their accomplished rivals look almost amateurish – so complete was the decimation. Ma, so assured at the net against other opponents, was totally at sea against Zhao, while Zhang Nan picked off smash winners at will.
“I’m very sad to have lost the opportunity for the gold,” Zhang Nan said. “We came prepared to go all the way, but faltered. We were determined to win today and kept our focus from the first point.”