Sindhu wins battle of nerves to enter All England Championships semifinals

PTI, Mar 20, 2021, 1:45 PM IST

Birmingham: Reigning world champion P V Sindhu rallied to eke out a thrilling win over Japan’s third seed Akane Yamaguchi in an intriguing women’s singles quarterfinals of the prestigious All England Championships here.

Sindhu, seeded fifth, staged a remarkable comeback after losing the opening game to notch up a 16-21 21-16 21-19 win over world number five Yamaguchi in a pulsating contest that lasted an hour and 16 minutes to make only her second semifinals appearance at All England on Friday night.

The Indian had come into the match with a 10-7 head-to-head count against the Japanese even though she had lost the last three meetings. So, it was Sindhu’s first win in last four meetings with Yamaguchi.

“I am playing against her after quite a long time, I think 2019. We haven’t played at all. I’m sure she would have trained very hard. Today’s match was a good, tough long match I would say,” Sindhu, currently ranked world number seven, said after the match.

“In the first game I was making a lot of errors and hitting them out because I was on the side with the stronger drift. The second game, it was in my favour. A lot of long rallies. It was important to get that second game.

“In the third game, it was very crucial. My coach was very supportive, he was making sure I controlled the shuttle well. Each point was very important. Overall, it was anybody’s game but I am happy to be on the winning side.”

The Olympic silver medallist will face sixth seed Pornpawee Chochuwong for a place in the final. The Indian has an overwhelming 4-1 lead against the world No. 11 from Thailand.

“I really fought hard to come to here. It’s important to be focused and go back and rest myself to come back stronger. Pornpawee has been playing really well, so I’m sure I have to be very well prepared and give it 100 percent.”

Sindhu, who had reached the finals at Swiss Open, played an aggressive game, matching Yamaguchi with her speed and retrieving skills but unforced errors allowed the Japanese to jump to an 11-6 lead.

Yamaguchi’s precision held her in good stead as she led 17-11. Sindhu produced an angled return and a superb shot from the forehand corner to make it 15-18. However, the Japanese was a step ahead as pocketed the first game.

Both the players had an error-prone start to the second game before Sindhu moved to 6-2 with some superb shots, which swelled to a 8-4 with the Japanese missing the lines twice.

Yamaguchi then sent the shuttle to the net twice and then went long as Sindhu held a five point advantage at the interval. The Indian soon marched to a 14-8 over an erratic Yamaguchi.

She grabbed a couple of points at 11-17 but Sindhu unleashed a cross court smash and moved to 19-13 when the Japanese went long. Another wide shot from Yamaguchi and it was five game points for Sindhu, who squandered one before making a roaring comeback.

The decider started on an even note as both the shuttlers engaged in some gruelling fast paced rallies, moving neck-and-neck from 2-2 to 7-7.

With the rallies getting longer, Sindhu seemed to struggle physically but she shrugged it off to grab a two point cushion at the break with Yamaguchi going wide twice at 9-9.

After the final change of ends, Sindhu made it 14-10 but Yamaguchi kept breathing down her neck, making it 13-15 with a cross court return.

A disguised return and a cross court smash helped Yamaguchi to make it 15-15.

The Japanese went to net and then hit long but Sindhu next missed the line as it was 17-16.

A net error saw Yamaguchi make it 17-17 and she then grabbed the lead with another superb return.

Sindhu then made it 19-18 with a couple of points and then grabbed the match points with Yamaguchi going wide. The Japanese then hit the net as Sindhu let out a cry of celebration.

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