World Tour Finals: Sindhu, Sameer qualify for knockout stage with dominant wins

P.V. Sindhu defeated Beiwen Zhang 21-9, 21-15 for her third consecutive win; Sameer Verma was equally destructive in his 21-9, 21-18 win over Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen.

P.V. Sindhu hits a return against Beiwen Zhang of the US during their women's singles third round match at the 2018 BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou on Friday.   -  AFP

Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu continued her unbeaten run while debutant Sameer Verma also qualified for the knockout stage with a straight-game win in his last group B match at the BWF World Tour Finals, here on Friday.

Playing her third successive year-ending finale, Sindhu dished out some deceptive strokes and showed precision during the 35-minute contest to prevail over World No. 12 Beiwen Zhang 21-9, 21-15 in a one-sided women’s singles contest to top Group A.

As it Happened

“I was down 2-6 initially but I picked up the lead, so after that I was fine,” Sindhu, the last edition’s runner-up, said after the match.

“I have played a few matches against her after the Indian Open final, so I took it as a fresh match,” said the 23-year-old referring to her Indian Open final loss to Zhang at New Delhi early this year.

“I am happy with the three wins, it is a positive thing. I hope to move forward with the same positivity and do well in the semifinals,” added Sindhu.

Masterful performance

On the adjacent court, 24-year-old Sameer showed great athleticism and produced a masterful performance to demolish Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-9, 21-18 in a match that clocked 44 minutes.

After losing the opening match to World No. 1 and world champion Kento Momota, Sameer, who qualified for the tournament after defending his title at Syed Modi International last month, recovered well to come up trumps against his other two opponents in Group B.

“I have played him before at Swiss Open so I knew how to go about it. In the second game I was losing so after some advice from my coach, I kept my patience and now I am ready to play the semifinals,” said Sameer.

“It has been a great experience playing my first world tour finals.”

P.V. Sindhu vs Beiwen Zhang.   -  BWF

 

Slow start

In the women’s singles, Sindhu, who had stunned World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in her previous match, didn’t make a good start against Zhang, conceding a 0-4 lead early on.

But she clawed back at 6-6 after producing some angled returns, which included a delightful over-the head-cross court return.

The World No. 6 Indian kept the pressure and eked out a three-point advantage at the break after Zhang hit out.

Zhang tried to put the shuttle in difficult positions but Sindhu not only retrieved the shuttle but also produced some precise returns to extend her lead to 17-8.

Smash for smash

The Hong Kong-born U.S. shuttler unleashed a cross court smash to break the run of points but Sindhu reciprocated with an equally superb smash. She eventually got game point when Zhang hit the net.

The Indian then sealed the opening game comfortably in 15 minutes when Zhang failed to reach a shot at the forecourt.

After the change of sides, Sindhu continued to dominate the proceedings to accumulate the first five points before hitting long.

Zhang seemed to suffer from indecision and ended up committing too many unforced errors. At 2-6, Zhang produced a precise body smash and then got a lucky net chord to gain a couple of points. She also played an exceptional net shot and drew parity at 7-7 when Sindhu went long.

The Indian managed a 11-9 advantage at the interval after Zhang went long again. The Indian extended her lead to 16-12 after the breather even as Zhang showed signs of frustration, dropping her racquet or breaking into a sheepish smile after missing chances.

Sindhu continued to control the rallies and went to 20-12 when Zhang hit the net twice. The Indian committed three unforced errors before sealing the contest, following her opponent’s miscued shot which went long.

-Momota powers into semis-

World champion Kento Momota revved into the last four with a third comprehensive victory on Friday. The Japanese star powered past Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto 21-14, 21-8 in just 36 minutes.

Momota, the man to beat, will be strong favourite against South Korea's Son Wan-ho in their semi-final. The 24-year-old Momota has won all three of his matches so far this week without dropping a game.

Victory in Guangzhou would be a fitting end to a spectacular year in which he has reached number one in the world for the first time and won his maiden world title.

It is all a far cry from 2016, when he was banned for more than a year by the Japanese team for visiting an illegal casino, missing the Rio Olympics.

(With inputs from AFP)