World Badminton Championships 2017 Day 5 roundup: Saina, Sindhu ensure two medals, heartbreak for Srikanth
A visibly disappointed Indian camp in Glasgow turned euphoric as P.V. Sindhu stormed into the semi-finals of the BWF World Championships 2017 on Friday. In doing so, the Rio Olympics silver medallist achieved yet another milestone in her career assuring India its first medal in the flagship event at the Emirates Arena. Friday’s result also helped her complete a hat-trick of Worlds medals as she has been a bronze medallist in the 2013 and 2014 editions.
Sindhu disposed of World No. 6 Chinese Sun Yu 21-14, 21-9 in 39 minutes to set up a clash with another young Chinese Chen Yufei, the reigning world junior champion, in the semi-finals. Yufei, who showed the door to top seed Akane Yamaguchi in the pre-quarter-finals, outplayed Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in another quarter-final match on the day. Intanon became the youngest ever world champion in the 2013 edition.
Former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal joined Sindhu in the last-four stage and ensured India and herself a second medal at the Championships after prevailing over local hope Kirsty Gilmour 21-19, 18-21, 21-15 in 74 minutes. Nehwal next plays Japanese seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara, who shocked the two-time world and reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin in a three-game thriller 21-18, 14-21, 21-15 in 93 minutes.
Earlier, Kidambi Srikanth’s dream of winning a medal at the championship went up in smoke when he went down fighting to the World No. 1 and top seed Son Wan Ho of South Korea 21-14, 21-18 in a 49-minute men’s singles quarter-final clash. Srikanth, who came to Glasgow with back-to-back Super Series titles at Indonesia and Australia and a final finish at the Singapore Open, was India’s best bet in the World Championships. His twin wins over Wan Ho this June also counted for little as the Korean was better prepared and had answers to Srikanth’s game plan.
Also, the pressure of playing his first World Championship quarter-finals put him at the receiving end as Srikanth looked patchy and couldn’t play his natural game that has challenged even the best in the business in the past. Wan Ho’s angled strokes coupled with his deceptive and strong defensive game also troubled the Indian during the match as he succumbed in straight games.
Among others, Denmark's Viktor Axelsen, five-time champion Lin Dan and two-time champion Chen Long reached the semi-finals in men's singles.
Dominant show by Sindhu
A day after her sluggish performance in the pre-quarter-finals where she had to really pull herself up to beat World No. 17 Chueng Ngan Yi, Sindhu dished out a clinical show against Yu, who seemed clueless on most occasions. The Indian World No. 4 came into Friday’s match after spending one hour and 27 minutes on the court on Thursday but there was no shade of tiredness in her game.
Sindhu had answers to everything thrown at her by the mighty Chinese; she stayed ahead in both the games (11-4 at the break) and hardly gave away any room to Yu for her comeback. Sindhu’s aggressive game, which included cross-court half smashes and down-the-line winners, put Yu under pressure and she looked out of sorts on most occasions. The Indian also picked up a couple of points through her strong defense and net game.
There were a lot of quick rallies, including at 8-4 in the first game that had 39 shots, which treated the Emirates Arena crowd with delight. Having lost Game 1, the pressure seemed to build on Yu and out of frustration, her strokes lacked precision and sharpness which Sindhu made it to good use to eventually seal the match over the 24-year-old former junior world champion.
Nehwal survives Gilmour scare
Gilmour seemed to have come into the match against the 2015 silver medallist, Nehwal, with a better tactic and maintained the pressure throughout. Not only she had variations in her serves but her cross-court smashes and angled drops made the Indian move around the court. However, Nehwal relied on her experience and had better control of the net and the shuttle to overturn a five-point deficit in the first game, after a strong 6-2 start to level at 17-all before going on to winning it, thanks to her deft drops.
In the second, the 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist reeled off series of points (from 13-11 to 17-11) playing Nehwal nearer to the net and finishing with cross-court winners. At 16-20, Nehwal saved two games points but it was too late as the Scot forced a decider.
Nehwal held an upper hand in the decider racing to a 5-0 lead and then to 11-5. Gilmour’s deceptive drops and jump smashes left Nehwal clueless at times, but she didn’t let go the momentum and held onto the advantage from 14-8 to 18-12. With pressure building on Gilmour, couple of wides from her helped Nehwal’s cause. At 13-20, the Scot saved two match points but failed to send a push across the net ending the home hopes.
A possible all-Indian final
Marin’s exit on Friday has opened up chances for the duo—Nehwal and Sindhu—to push for a historic all-Indian summit clash on Sunday. The two has a 1-1 head-to-head record in BWF events, with Sindhu triumphing in their last meeting at the India Open Super Series in March. Of late, a rivalry between the two has grown since Sindhu has taken over the baton over her senior compatriot. The rivalry apart, it will be a chance for both the players to change the colour of their medals and win a historic gold.
As the two get ready for their matches on Saturday, Nehwal looked stronger on paper against Okuhara. She has a 6-1 record against the World No. 12, the last of their meeting being won by Nehwal at the 2017 All England Championships. Also going by the Indian’s performance in the past two days, she should progress into the final.
For Sindhu, Yufei might make things difficult for her. Yufei, the reigning Asia Junior and World Junior champion, is the latest star in the Chinese women’s singles camp and would be ready to tackle the Indian. National coach Pullela Gopichand and U. Vimal Kumar will have a tough task at hand to chalk out plans for their respective wards.