India Open: Sindhu defeats Saina to seal semifinal spot

The much-waited clash involving Sindhu and Saina, ranked third and sixth in the world, produced a widely expected result. Sindhu prevailed 21-16, 22-20 in 47 minutes of tense action that did not really live up the quality expected from two top-10 players.

PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, after their quarterfinal clash at the India Open Super Series.   -  PTI

The foundation of a bitter rivalry is firmly in place. P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have never been the best of friends and what happened in the quarterfinals of Yonex India Open badminton championship here on Friday only reinforced that belief that there was no love lost between the two leading ladies of Indian badminton.

For the record, the much-waited clash involving Sindhu and Saina, seeded third and sixth, produced a widely expected result. Sindhu prevailed 21-16, 22-20 in 47 minutes of tense action that did not really live up the quality expected from two top-10 players.Sindhu now plays Korean second seed Sung Ji Hyun while the second semifinal will feature top seed Carolina Marin and Japanese Akane Yamaguchi.

In the men’s section, Sameer Verma’s campaign ended after he fell in straight games to Denmark’s Anders Antonsen.But the talking point of the evening was the Sindhu-Saina showdown. 

Before a vociferous crowd that supported Saina more than Sindhu, the Olympic silver medallist was obviously more desperate to win. Saina has missed no chance to remind badminton lovers that she was far from fit following the knee-surgery after Rio Olympics.

“I think she moved very well. At least, I didn’t see her struggling to move at any point,” said Sindhu of Saina’s on-court movements this evening.The match, which did not see too many rallies, saw Saina trying to finish the points with her forceful strokes while Sindhu was happy to return the shuttles, using Saina’s pace whenever possible.

Sindhu’s smashes, lacking in power when compared to Saina’s finishing strokes, brought her points due to placement. “I am still working on adding strengths to my smashes,” admitted the Olympic silver-medallist.

With palpable tension between the players, the quality of stroke-making suffered. Too many errors of judgements, shuttle flying beyond the sidelines or unforced errors leading the shuttle to the net ended many points.

The first game was controlled by Sindhu who broke away from 9-9 to win six straight points and went on close the game in 17 minutes.In the second, it was Saina all the way till 19-16. But this was the scoreline from where Sindhu managed to pull off the opening game of the Rio Olympic final against eventual champion Carolina. Sindhu did it again.

She made it 19-19 before Saina moved to game point. At this stage, nerves got the better of Saina. She netted her serve to leave her fans bewildered.

Sindhu seized her chance and moved to match point when Saina misjudged a tossed-up return. Sindhu then closed out the match with a gentle push to Saina’s forehand corner. 

Now their head-to-head record stands at 1-1. In the 2014 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold final at Lucknow, Saina did not have to work too hard for a straight-game victory. On this day, Sindhu avenged that defeat, that too, in their first clash in a Super Series.

 

Quarterfinal-results (Prefix denotes seeding):Men: 7-Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) bt Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus (Den) 21-10, 21-14; Anders Antonsen (Den) bt Sameer Verma 24-22, 21-19; Victor Axelsen (Den) bt Tzu Wei Wang (Tpe) 19-21, 21-14, 21-16; 6-Ng Ka Long Angus (Hkg) bt Tommy Sugiarto (Ina) 10-21, 21-15, 21-19.Women: 1-Carolina Marin (Esp) bt Minatsu Mitani (Jpn) 21-10, 20-22, 21-14; 4-Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) bt 7-Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) 21-13, 11-21, 21-18; 3-P. V. Sindhu  bt 6-Saina Nehwal 21-16, 22-20; 2-Sung Ji Hyun (Kor) bt 5-Ratchanok Intanon 21-16, 22-20.