Sindhu squanders India Open title to Beiwen

P. V. Sindhu squandered a match-point as Beiwen Zhang defeated her 21-18, 11-21, 22-20 to clinch the India Open title on Sunday.

P. V. Sindhu and Beiwen Zhang pose with their trophies after the India Open final on Sunday.   -  PTI

Fighting rising pressure of expectations, P. V. Sindhu tripped on the threshold of a successful title-defence and left Beiwen Zhang celebrating her first major success.
From the perspective of a large, vociferous crowd, it was heart-break as World No. 4 Sindhu blew away a match-point. Worse, she then lost the next three points in quick time to give the World No. 11 a 21-18, 11-21, 22-20 triumph in the $350,000 India Open badminton here on Sunday.

For Sindhu, the reigning finalist of the Olympic Games and World championship, this was a fifth loss in the final of a major title-clash. Her runner-up finishes came in the 2015 Denmark Open, 2016 and 2017 Hong Kong Open and the 2017 Super Series Finals.

As the tie happened


However, this was the first time when Sindhu lost a final after holding a match-point. Not surprisingly, a disappointed Sindhu also stayed away from the post-match press-conference.

Zhang, 27, knowing the pressure was firmly on the home favourite, then came up with a cross-court smash beyond Sindhu’s reach to move within a point of the title. She did not have to work harder to clinch the match-point as Sindhu’s second return – a backhand flick from the front of the court– found the side-line.

The new champion, of Chinese origin, who moved to Singapore before shifting to the US with her parents, previously had only three Grand Prix titles to show since 2014.

“I think Sindhu took the pressure too much,” was what Zhang felt after the match. “I had nothing to lose. So I played more attackingly today. You don’t see me smashing much but today, I smashed a lot more and won lots of points. It worked for me today,” she added

Zhang, without a travelling coach for the last seven years, had no court-side guidance during the mid-game intervals for at the end of each game. But she kept telling herself, “Don’t take pressure,” as she revealed later.

Yuqi stages comeback win against Chen to win singles title

Earlier, the men singles title when to World No. 8 China’s Shi Yuqi who battled from deficit in the first game to race past Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, ranked seventh, 21-18, 21-14.

For the second straight year, Chou Tien Chen finished second best. But for the better part of the first game, the third seed looked in control, leading till 17-15. At this point, Shi Yuqi enjoyed his best phase and won five points on the trot. This proved decisive as Chen’s rhythm was broken and he never looked the same in the remainder of the match.

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“I think he was very tired and did not fight much,” said the champion, about Chen, with the help of an interpreter. “I was less tired and retrieved better than my opponent.”

Chen agreed that Shi Yuqi was better on this day. “He was making me move a lot. I tried hard but could not return as many shuttles as Shi Yuqi. I did not play my best today but it happens. It is not possible to play at your best in every match.”

Final results (Prefix indicates seeding):

Men singles: 4-Shi Yuqi (Chn) bt 3-Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) 21-18, 21-14.
Women singles: 5-Zhang Beiwen (USA) bt 1-P. V. Sindhu 21-18, 11-21, 22-20.
Mens doubles: 1-Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjay Sukhamuljo (Ina) bt 4-Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussan (Den) 21-14, 21-16.
Womens doubles:
3-Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu (Ina) bt 2-Jognkolphan Kitiharakul and Rwindra Prajongjai (Tha) 21-18, 21-15.
Mixed doubles: 5-Mathias Christiansen and Christinna Pedersen (Den) bt Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti (Ina) 21-14, 21-15.