Looking ready for stronger opposition, P. V. Sindhu got past a tricky rival in Mia Blichfeldt 21-15, 21-13 for a place in the quarterfinals of the Olympics badminton competition on Thursday.
On Friday (at 12pm IST), Sindhu plays fourth-seeded home favourite Akane Yamaguchi who defeated 12th seeded Korean Kim Gaeun 21-17, 21-18. Sindhu’s fifth victory over the Danish rival in six encounters was also her easiest in terms of the points conceded. In the months leading to her World title in 2019, the lanky Indian beat Mia thrice.
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This year, when competitions began in January, Mia surprised Sindhu in three games in Thailand Open before the Indian avenged the loss in the Swiss Open in March.
On this day, Sindhu dropped the first two points and never trailed thereafter. Barring a brief period during the first game when she let Mia rally from 6-13 to close the gap to 15-16, Sindhu stayed in control.
In fact, the decisive twist in the match came when Sindhu won the last five points of the first game and the first five points of the second game. This 10-point streak underlined Sindhu's resolve and severely dented Mia's hopes of recovery. Despite her best efforts, Mia stayed at least three points behind Sindhu.
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The first game was better contested. Sindhu displayed a fine variety of strokes in the first half as she was quick to attack on both flanks and increased her lead.
If Mia managed to close the gap it was mainly because she found a way to push Sindhu away from the net and then unleash down the line smashes, mainly on the Indian's backhand. A couple of mishits from Sindhu also gave Mia some cheap points.
For the second day, Sindhu’s defence from the forecourt looked effective. Again, she did not opt for the toss-and-drop game and focussed more on shorter returns, close to the net. Her trademark forehand flicks from the backcourt that twice caught Mia off-guard were a treat to watch.
It became clear that the loss of the first game, especially the way Sindhu raced away with the final five points, impacted Mia in the second set. In her desperation to make up for the lost opportunity, Mia committed several unforced errors and let Sindhu regain her firm grip. Steadily, Sindhu went on to force nine match-points. Mia saved two before Sindhu marched ahead.
So far, unlike the men’s singles where the top seed Kenta Momota could not get past the league stage, the women’s singles has seen all the players take their allotted spots in the quarterfinals.