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I have a lot to learn from All England Open 2018: PV Sindhu after semifinal loss to Akane Yamaguchi

Sagnik Kundu
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
1.22K   //    18 Mar 2018, 03:56 IST

PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu

On Saturday, history slipped through PV Sindhu's hands as she ended up on the losing side of an epic semi-final match that lasted 79 minutes at the All England Open in Birmingham where 20-year-old Japanese star, Akane Yamaguchi, showed immense mental strength to come back from an unlikely position and win 19-21, 21-19, 21-18.

At the highest stage, Sindhu, who almost teared up after conceding the match point, failed to go that extra stretch yet again. There were some defining moments in the match, instances when Sindhu sent in some scorching smashes and some more exquisite slices. But what stood out were Yamaguchi's trademark variations and fighting spirit throughout the match

Moreover, Yamaguchi has that innate talent, that knowledge of how to push back any opponent in the final stages. There was a certain class in the way she pulled off distinct comebacks in each of the three games. You cannot say that all these talents are intuitive, some are learnt. But then, Sindhu has her own limitations in the sport.

"It was a good game. It was just not my day. I can just say that because I gave my 100%. Ups and downs are always there, and one should win and one should lose. There were some long rallies and she (Yamaguchi) played well," a distraught Sindhu said after the match.

Indeed, the Indian shuttler went out saying that it wasn't her day, that she gave her all and yet, Yamaguchi outdid her. But the truth remains that her net game is not so polished, her backhand is not so efficient always. And, she can't help it. Yes, she has moulded her tall, stiff structure into shape and more importantly, she gives her all at the crucial junctures. However, it just isn't good enough on all days.

Another important stat, that deserves mention is the number of points Yamaguchi won from the long rallies. There were some long rallies like Sindhu said -- a 33-shot exchange, another 44-shot back and forth rally, and many more. And Yamaguchi won at least 90% of those rallies.

Many will argue that playing three back-to-back long had taken its toll on Sindhu. But she herself knows that's no excuse. "Whether you keep playing long matches, or you win in straight sets, that should not really bother you," she said before adding, "At the same time, three games are not so easy. When she scores are 18 all, the 2-3 points matter a lot. I think it was those 2-3 points that made the difference. But until then, it was anybody's game."

"I think I have got a lot of things to learn from this tournament. It was a good tournament overall but you keep losing and winning. The only thing you can do is come back stronger," the 23-year-old said. The lesson in this loss to Yamaguchi for Sindhu is how to protect your lead and how to make it count.

In the first game, Sindhu had raced to a 6-0 lead but then she allowed Yamaguchi to make a comeback and make it a tight affair. Again, in the decider, Sindhu was well ahead, enjoying a healthy six-point lead at one point. But from 7-13 down, the Japanese shuttler rallied back to level at 14-14. Then, from 18-18, the last three points passed in a blur.

"Halfway through the game, there were some situations that I didn't want to create. But I just tried to hang on and to keep up the pace. I was behind at the halfway stage but then I caught up. At the very end, I was in an aggressive mood and I think, that led me to my win," Yamaguchi said after her win highlighting how she turned things around.

The match might have been a thrilling one for the spectators. But for Sindhu -- even as she licks her wounds from the defeat -- she has to come up with a way to go that last mile.

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Sagnik Kundu
FEATURED COLUMNIST
I spend every day at office wondering how they got the table through the door.
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