PV Sindhu to face Tai Tzu Ying in semifinals at Tokyo Olympics

P.V. Sindhu beat Akane Yamaguchi 21-13, 22-20 to advance to the semifinals of the women's singles event at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

PV Sindhu reached the semifinals of the women's singles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

With monstrous smashes, lung-exhausting rallies and the deftest of disguised drop shots, P. V. Sindhu posted a gritty win over Akane Yamaguchi in an epic encounter. Sindhu’s 21-13, 22-20 victory propelled her into the semifinals, where she will meet her long-time rival, the second-seed Tai Tzu Ying.

Sindhu pranced onto the court at the Musashino Forest Plaza and went through the first game in a breeze. She gave Yamaguchi no breathing room, no time to settle down. The Japanese, ferociously backed by all the volunteers here, led 6-5 in the opening game. A phenomenal rally that lasted 33 seconds, studded with 26 strokes, took Sindhu level at 6-6. It was one-way traffic thereon as Sindhu took off, racing to a 16-11 lead in quick time.

She kept Yamaguchi guessing throughout, craftily mixing formidable smashes with delicate drops. Yamaguchi targeted Sindhu's backhand, but the Indian looked unperturbed as she clinched the first game in 23 minutes and began the second game with a smash that clocked 308kmph. The fastest bullet train in Japan runs at an estimated speed of 320kmph!

Yamaguchi lost momentum and was undone by a streak of unforced errors. Chasing a second successive Olympic medal, Sindhu was up 14-8 but Yamaguchi made a comeback. She clawed her way into the game to cut Sindhu's lead to 15-13.

 

Sindhu books semifinal berth in Tokyo Olympics, Badminton Highlights: Sindhu beats Akane Yamaguchi 2-0 in quarters

Then came the moment of the game — one that would go down as one of the greatest rallies of all time. The two champion shuttlers -- among the greatest to step on a badminton court -- went back and forth for a whole 63 seconds before Yamaguchi finished it off with a down-the-line smash. Both of them sank to their knees for a good 10 seconds, giving a glimpse of the kind of match it was — one that demanded every molecule of their energy.

Yamaguchi rode on the momentum and led for the first time in the second game at 20-18 and was on the brink of pushing the contest to the third game. Sindhu, though, dug deep to save the two game points and claimed the next two to wrap up a hard-fought win.

"This was the best match of the tournament for me so far," Sindhu said after the quarterfinal that lasted 56 minutes. "The second game was very crucial for me. Even though she was leading, I never lost hope. I was leading 14-8, and all of a sudden, she was leading 20-18. My coach was constantly saying, 'it is okay, it is not over yet... be focused, and you can do it' and I have done it."

PV Sindhu: Was the best match of the tournament for me so far

Sindhu highlighted the tough nature of the face-off but said she was always up for the challenge. "I was prepared for the rallies. I always knew she would come back, and I was prepared for it. I needed to maintain my attack because that's my strong point. There were few errors from my side when I was hitting smashes. But apart from that, I am happy that I closed the match in two games," she said. Sindhu had beaten Yamaguchi in three games when they had last played in the quarterfinal of the All England Open in March.

Sindhu added that the free time she had during the pandemic had helped her improve her game. “I have worked on every single stroke and my techniques and skills with my coach. We got a good amount of time due to the pandemic when tournaments were getting cancelled, and I utilised this period really well.”

Meanwhile, China won the first gold at stake. Second-seeded Chinese Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping defeated their top-seeded compatriots Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong in the mixed doubles final.

The results:

Women singles (quarterfinals): Chen Yufie (Chn) bt An Se Young (Kor) 21-18, 21-19; He Bingjiao (Chn) bt Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) 13-21, 21-13, 21-14; P. V. Sindhu bt Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) 21-13, 22-20; Tai Tzu Ying (Tpe) bt Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) 14-21, 21-18, 21-18.

Mixed doubles (final): Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping (Chn) bt Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (Chn) 21-17, 17-21, 21-19; (for bronze medal): Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino (Jpn) bt Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet (Hkg) 21-17, 23-21.

Men’s doubles (semifinals): Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin (Tpe) bt Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan (Ina) 21-11, 21-10; Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen (Chn) bt Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik (Mas) 24-22, 21-13.

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