Sindhu reaches historic final, Saina takes bronze

P. V. Sindhu dismantled Japan's Akane Yamaguchi to become the first Indian to reach an Asian Games final, while World number 10 and Olympic medallist Saina played with good intensity but lost 17-21, 14-21 to a superior Tai Tzu Ying.

P.V. Sindhu defeated World No. 2 Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in the women's singles semifinal.   -  Getty Images

She started her Asian Games singles journey very shakily a few days ago but now P.V. Sindhu is just a step away from gold and glory.

She is already assured of a place in Indian badminton history, becoming the first Indian to enter an Asiad final here on Monday and the two-time World Championship silver medallist will meet Taipei’s World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the women’s final on Tuesday.

AS IT HAPPENED

If she wins, it will be the first-ever Asiad singles gold in any racket sport for an Indian woman.

Sindhu, the World No. 3, overcame a mid-match lapse of concentration to defeat Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi 21-17, 15-21, 21-10 while Saina Nehwal was left confused by Tai Tzu’s end-game strategy and lost 17-21, 14-21 in the semifinals.

Indonesian Jonathan Christie and Taipei’s Chou Tienchen will clash in the men’s final. Christie, inspired by the huge home crowd, defeated Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto 21-15, 15-21, 21-19 while Tienchen prevented an all-Indonesia final by packing off Anthony Ginting 21-16, 21-23, 21-17.

Asian Games Day 9: Indians in action

Saina, who recharged badminton in India with her 2012 Olympics bronze, ended her campaign with a bronze, her first in three attempts in singles at these Games.

Confident start

Sindhu has won four of her five encounters against Yamaguchi this year and with that assuring thought, she began confidently. The 23-year-old’s tall frame and long limbs gave her a huge advantage, her smashes which came from a steep angle often rattled her opponent and she could handle anything which Yamaguchi could throw at her.

But Yamaguchi, despite being short and a bit stocky, is a great retriever and has an impressive jump smash. Though Sindhu moved to 15-10 in the opener, she cut down the gap to 15-17 before buckling under the Indian’s onslaught.

It’s India’s first badminton final at the Asian Games, so where would Saina Nehwal put her money on when P.V. Sindhu plays the very dangerous and deceptive Tai Tzu Ying, the World No. 1, on Tuesday.

“I would say it’s 50-50,” said Saina here on Tuesday. “Sindhu is taller, has more options to counter, she can play shots which I cannot play since she is taller.”

And what does Sindhu think of her chances?

“It will not be an easy match and hopefully, I’ll get the gold,” said Sindhu. “There is some strategy against her but I will have to change it depending on how the match goes.”

Meanwhile, chief coach Gopi Chand felt that Sindhu should not look at the match as an Asiad final but as any other match. That, he said, would ease the pressure.

The second game was close initially but Yamaguchi broke away to 17-13 using her deceptive round the head shots effectively. She also enjoyed three lucky net cord points and took the game to the decider which Sindhu won comfortably.

“I know I started the Asiad very shakily but I kept getting better with every match. I always believed in my ability,” said Sindhu.

Coming into this match, Saina had lost her last nine matches against Tzu Ying, including three in the 2018 season.   -  PTI

The Saina-Tai Tzu semifinal was close in patches but the Taipei star could suddenly break away to big leads at crucial stages, like 19-15 in the first game and 19-14 in the next.

Saina admitted that Tai Tzu’s finishing strategy left her confused.

 

“She tries to be very quick in the last few points. I could have controlled somewhere here and there but I think it’s tough to play her because she has a complete game where you don’t know where to play her and where to get the points,” said Saina.

“I think I was really confused there.”