Hopes of vengeance were raised after PV Sindhu clinically packed off the dangerous Akane Yamaguchi and Ratchanok Intanon on her way to the Hong Kong Open Superseries final on Sunday. However, it was all over in two games. Yet again.
Sindhu once again faltered against World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, this time going down to the top seed in Hong Kong, a championship she has chased since last year. The 23-year-old Hyderabadi lost 18-21 18-21, making it her second defeat in four finals this year. Earlier, she had settled for the runners-up place against Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in the World Championship final.
Against the wily Chinese Taipei shuttler alone, the Indian now has an inferior 3-8 head-to-head record and since the last Hong Kong Open, Sindhu has lost to Tai four times in a row. In all their meetings in the past one year, except the Australian Open, Tai has won all the ties in straight games. But it would be worth remembering that Sindhu had defeated her nemesis on her way to winning the silver at the Rio Olympics last year.
In terms of achievements, the Hong Kong title was Tai’s seventh major title of the year, after the crowns at the All England, Malaysia, Singapore and French Opens, Badminton Asia Championships and the World University Games, while Sindhu has the India Open, Korea Open and Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold titles apart from the Worlds silver (that came after battling for a record 110 minutes) to her name.
In Kowloon, as the scoreline suggests, the matches were close and Sindhu had the advantage only on a few occasions as Tai ruled throughout. Her pace and control were far superior and so was her stroke-making ability compared to her Indian opponent’s powerful smashes and rallies, which weren’t enough to tame the crafty Taipei shuttler.
Analysing the final game, chief national coach Pullela Gopichand told this correspondent, “I think Tai is one of the best stroke-makers in badminton and has a really good court craft. This time in Hong Kong, I think the difference between both the players wasn’t too much and Sindhu could have won the match. It was only a few points here and there which went very close and made the difference.”
“In terms of record, Tai has a healthy record against Sindhu. But I believe with time and some more understanding of her opponents’ game, Sindhu will be able to overcome her. She has beaten some top players like Intanon and Yamaguchi against whom she had struggled in the past. Overall it was a good performance,” the former All England champion believed.
With a similar style of elegance and unconventional game, Intanon and Tai have entered into several major events as top contenders and they have managed to live up to their billings too—Tai won seven tournaments while Intanon has three (Thailand, New Zealand, Denmark besides an All England silver). Had the youngest world champion not suffered a knee injury at the start of the year, she could have spelt more magic with her wrist on the court. Sindhu too trails Intanon 2-4 in their head-to-head record.
Highlighting more on Tai’s style of game that can even leave the best in awe, the coach said, “Deception is one of her key strengths. Unlike many players, who can deceive from the front of the court, she has really good deception from the back court, which makes her opponents fail to read her game.”
The way Tai dominated 2017 is already an indication towards what we can expect in the next season, which has several major events in its calendar. But before that, the much-awaited season-ending Dubai Superseries Finals awaits its winners and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.