Sindhu beats Okuhara in straight games, enters semis

Sindhu defeated Okuhara 21-17 21-19 in a 58-minute quarterfinal match to be assured of a medal in the tournament.

PV Sindhu will face World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi from Japan in the semifinals Saturday in a bid to reach her second straight final.   -  AP

Indian shuttler P V Sindhu avenged her last year's heart-breaking final defeat against Nozomi Okuhara, as she produced a dominant display to beat her Japanese rival in straight games at the BWF World Championships here on Friday.

Sindhu defeated Okuhara 21-17 21-19 in a 58-minute quarterfinal match to be assured of a medal in the tournament. She faces World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi from Japan in the semifinals Saturday in a bid to reach her second straight final. This will be Sindhu’s fourth medal at the World Championships.

Yamaguchi had defeated Sindhu in the final of Dubai Superseries finals last year.

Sindhu had lost to Okuhara in the final last year 19-21 22-20 20-22, but it was the Indian who got the upper hand on Friday.

The win by Sindhu meant that the head-to-head record between the two is now levelled at 6-6. After the World Championships final last year, they had played five times against each other, including today’s match, and Sindhu have won three of them as against two by Okuhara.

In both the games today, Okuhara led initially but Sindhu was able to come back to take the honours. Olympics silver medallist Sindhu dished out a wide array of tricks in her armoury -- the angled strokes, flat as well as steep smashes, drop shots, net placement and strokes to the deep court of her rival.

In the first game, Okuhara took an early 6-2 lead as she executed a brilliant cross-court half-smash, leaving Sindhu completely stranded.

Sindhu came back strongly and clawed her way back to 5-7 and after Okuhara hit the net, the score was tied at 8-8. Another error of judgment from Okuhara gave Sindhu the lead for the first time and then she extended it to 10-8 before going to the break 11-10. The Indian maintained the lead at 14-12 with a superb down-the-line smash. Okuhara hit net twice and it was 17-15 for Sindhu. Then following a 35-shot rally which ended with a smash down the line, Sindhu was 19-15 up and reached game point with a drop shot after a 30-shot rally. Sindhu pocketed the first game 21-17.

Okuhara took an early 4-0 lead in the second game. Sindhu produced an exquisite stroke, a flat backhand onto Okuhara’s deep corner, but she trailed 2-5. Sindhu then gave away some easy points to Okuhara and she was 3-9 behind. Okuhara took an 11-8 lead at break but Sindhu came back to level it at 11-11 with three straight points as she mixed up her strokes well.

It was a tight affair as both the players gave nothing away. The score was level at 16-16 but from then onwards Sindhu stepped on the gas to grab the second game and win the match.

Last Indian in the tournament

Sindhu is now the only Indian left in the fray. Saina Nehwal’s impressive run came to a disappointing end at the World Championships as she suffered a straight-game loss to two-time champion Carolina Marin.

In the men’s qurterfinals, B Sai Praneeth was no match to Kento Momota of Japan as he lost 12-21 12-21 in just 39 minutes.

Mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy also couldn’t cross the quarterfinal hurdle, losing 17-21 10-21 to top seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong of China.

Saina's match against Marin turned out to be a lop-sided contest between the 2015 edition finalists, as reigning Olympic champion Marin once again produced her ‘A’ game on the big occasion to complete an emphatic 21-6 21-11 victory.

A 5-4 head-to-head count meant little as Marin dismantled Saina with consummate ease. The Spaniard stamped her authority on the match, parading the court and screaming her heart out after winning every point.

“Her movement was very quick today. She was moving so fast and covering the court very quickly. The kind of shots that she played, it seemed like she was suddenly very fast. Also I had a late match yesterday so to face someone so quick was difficult. I didn’t understand what to do, she never gave me a chance to play my game,” Saina said.

Marin said: “I’m doing well since first day. I was in control today. I’m the fastest in the world, it is my strength and I have to keep doing it. I am happy to reach the semifinal. The favouite player (Tai Tzu Ying) to win the tournament lost today, so ll try to give best tomorrow against China’s He Bingjiao.”

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