What could have been a confidence-boosting win after weeks of struggle ultimately turned into despair for PV Sindhu as she squandered a good start to lose to Akane Yamaguchi in her first group match at the BWF World Tour Finals 2019. The Indian ace desperately needed that win to restore the faith in her abilities, having suffered a slump ever since she was crowned the world champion in August.
In six tournaments since the prestigious Basel event, the Rio Olympic silver medallist managed to reach the quarter-finals only once. Looking very hesitant and tentative on the court, Sindhu had very much become a pale shadow of herself. Her aggression and power game took a hit and she fell to multiple unheralded players whom she had never lost to before.
In an effort to rectify her mistakes, the Pullela Gopichand protege had been working with Korean coach Park Tae Sang to spruce up her game and be ready for the gala season finale. When Sindhu took the court against the former World No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi in a blockbuster battle between the last two years' champions yesterday, she seemed to have overcome all her problems in the first half of her match. Looking very sharp in her movement and pretty alert in her anticipation skills, Sindhu looked to be cruising to a straight-game victory.
But the Japanese found an opening and got the chance to claw her way back into the match. Turning her steely defence into ruthless attack, she was able to keep the lanky Indian pinned to the backcourt to win a flurry of points. In the decider, Sindhu simply had no answer and whatever little opportunity she got, she failed to make any use of it before going down 21-18, 18-21, 8-21.
Sindhu finished the first day of action at the third position out of four players in Group A, which was led by the reigning All England Open champion Chen Yufei.
The defending champion now faces the Group A leader and World No. 2 Yufei in her second match today. The Chinese made a strong start to her bid for her first season-ending championships crown and registered a 21-9, 21-18 win against compatriot, He Bingjiao.
Considering the self-belief and resilience that Yufei showed to fight her way back in a tough second game in that match, she would be eager to put Sindhu to a stern test. However, the Indian shuttle queen can take solace from the fact that she leads their head-to-head record at 6-3 and has beaten the youngster in both their meetings this year.
Both those wins have come without Sindhu conceding any game herself, which further validates Yufei's troubles in reading the Indian's game. Having said that, the 21-year-old did beat Sindhu just a year ago at the China Open in a gruelling three-game encounter and it could be dangerous for the Indian if she starts spraying errors.
While a lot depends on Sindhu herself, her fate at this tournament will also be decided by how others in her group play. If one looks at the past head-to-head record of Akane Yamaguchi and He Bingjiao, it certainly does not raise much hope for Sindhu's chances to progress out of her group.
Yamaguchi's formidable combination of aggression and defence and her brilliant speed and footwork on the court have been quite an obstacle for the World No. 7 Chinese. In their 11 meetings, Bingjiao has succeeded in getting the better of Yamaguchi just once.
Having stormed back from the jaws of defeat, the diminutive Japanese will be more than ready to continue her winning streak and be in contention for a second title at this tournament to add to her 2017 glory.
And that does not bode well for Sindhu. If the Indian dreams of lifting the trophy for the second consecutive year, it is imperative that she gets a win today.
Here is all you need to know about
Tournament: 2019 BWF World Tour Finals
Category: World Tour Finals
Prize Money: US$1,500,000
Venue: Tianhe Gymnasium, Tianhe, Guangzhou, China
Dates: December 11 - December 15, 2019
Match schedule: Group A - Chen Yufei vs PV Sindhu expected to be approx at 5:30 pm IST on Thursday, December 12, 2019.
Head-to-head: Sindhu leads Yufei 6-3
Where to watch the matches in India?
The BWF World Tour Finals matches will be telecast live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1HD, Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 3 HD.
Live Stream Details and Info for the matches
Live Stream will be available on Hotstar.com.Published 12 Dec 2019, 14:24 IST