It's finally time for one of the most-awaited badminton matches as PV Sindhu and Akane Yamaguchi lock horns in a blockbuster quarterfinal showdown at the Tokyo Olympics 2021 on Friday (July 30).
The two have squared off 18 times previously, with Sindhu having an 11-7 lead. But it is the fierce competitive spirit of both athletes that makes their matches a must-watch.
It is interesting to note that although Sindhu has the experience of winning a medal at the Games, Yamaguchi has the home advantage. The diminutive Japanese won the 2019 Japan Open title at the Musashino Forest Plaza, the very venue where the Tokyo Olympics is now being staged.
The 24-year-old Japanese star has medals from the World Championships, the Asian Games, the Asian Championships among others so far. But the prized Olympic medal is still missing from the former World No. 1's illustrious resume.
Can reigning world champion PV Sindhu prevent Akane Yagamuchi from getting a step closer to fulfilling that dream?
Let's find out:
When and where to watch
Fixture: (6) PV Sindhu vs (4) Akane Yamaguchi
Date: July 30, 2021
Time: 4.45 pm local time, 1.15 pm IST
Live telecast: Doordarshan, Sony Ten 2, Sony Ten 2 HD, Sony Ten 3, Sony Ten 3 HD, Sony Ten 4, Sony Ten 4 HD, Sony Six, Sony Six HD
Live streaming: Sony Liv
PV Sindhu vs Akane Yamaguchi head-to-head
PV Sindhu has an 11-7 lead over Akane Yamaguchi in their head-to-head. Sindhu lost three matches in a row to the Japanese before turning the tables on Yamaguchi 16-21, 21-16, 21-19 at the All England Open quarterfinals earlier this year.
PV Sindhu vs Akane Yamaguchi ranking
While PV Sindhu is currently ranked seventh, Akane Yamaguchi is two rungs above her at fifth in the world rankings.
PV Sindhu vs Akane Yamaguchi prediction
Both PV Sindhu and Akane Yamaguchi have been in good form coming into this match. Sindhu started her hunt for her second Olympic medal with two commanding wins in the group stages. While she thrashed Ksenia Polikarpova 21-7, 21-10, Sindhu swatted aside Cheung Ngan Yi 21-9, 21-16.
In the Round of 16, a clinical PV Sindhu dispatched World No. 12 Mia Blichfeldt 21-15, 21-13.
Check Out: Tokyo Olympics 2021 Schedule
Akane Yamaguchi has been equally dominant in her three matches so far. In the group assignments, the Japanese blew away Pakistan's Mahoor Shahzad 21-3, 21-8 before staving off a late surge from Great Britain's Kirsty Gilmour for a 21-9, 21-18 win.
Yamaguchi then went on to secure a 21-17, 21-18 win over World No. 18 Kim Ga-eun to book her quarterfinal berth against her nemesis Sindhu.
A Sindhu vs Yamaguchi meeting always has the potential to be a marathon. With the two not having conceded a game so far, both should have the energy to battle it out till the end.
Sindhu needs to assert her attacking game right from the start. Yamaguchi is an expert at converting defense into offense and she will be looking for every opportunity to move the lanky Indian all over the court before pulling the trigger.
That said, Yamaguchi's speed had been one of her biggest assets before being plagued by a back injury in 2019. The Japanese is self-admittedly not as speedy as she was before and that could make a big difference in this match when the going gets tough.
Sindhu's crosscourt smashes and her deft touches at the net have been on point at the Tokyo Olympics and she will look to bank on them to close out the big win.
Prediction: PV Sindhu to win in three games.
Also read: Olympics 2021: Clinical PV Sindhu breezes past Mia Blichfeldt to enter quarterfinals