PV Sindhu is inching closer to glory as she beat seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara of Japan enters the women’s singles semi-finals of the 2018 All England Open Championships in Birmingham.
Sindhu beat the Japanese 20-22, 21-18, 21-18, making it to the last-four stage of the tournament for the first time.
It was a physically exhausting contest which lasted an hour and 24 minutes. It was the third straight three-game affair for Sindhu in the tournament. With this win, Sindhu, TOISA 2018 Badminton Player of the Year, also levelled the head-to-head tally 5-5 against the World No. 6.
In the men’s quarter-finals, the unseeded HS Prannoy was beaten by the World No 42 Huang Yuxiang 22-20, 16-21, 21-23. This is the farthest that Prannoy ranked 16th in the world, has reached at the All England Open. In 2015 and 2017 he was eliminated in the second round, while in 2016 he lost his opening match.
The 25-year-old had overcome Indonesian Tommy Sugiarto 21-10, 12-19 on Thursday to reach the quarters.
The current World No. 3 Sindhu will face another Japanese in second seed Akane Yamaguchi on Saturday for a place in the final. Yamaguchi defeated fifth seed Carolina Marin of Spain 21-15, 21-18 in her last-eight match.
The match started on even terms as Sindhu and Okuhara exchanged early points to be at 3-3. Sindhu briefly held the lead at 6-4 and 8-6 but went into the break trailing 10-11. The lead changed hands regularly and Sindhu got a game point at 20-19 but failed to finish it off. Okuhara then got back her momentum and won the opening game 22-20 in 28 minutes.
The first game gave the clue how the match was going to pan out – a long and tiring neck-and-neck contest.
Sindhu took an early 3-1 lead in the second game but Okuhara bounced back to level the terms. A couple of big smashes followed from Sindhu’s racquet as she regained the lead at 8-6. It was then chair umpire called up the Indian to give her first warning for delaying the proceedings.
It did not deter Sindhu much as she went into the break with a slender 11-10 lead, even winning a 24-shot long rally in between.
Okuhara made few unforced errors in quick succession which gave Sindhu a 16-13 lead in the must-win game. But the game went to the wire as the seventh seed Japanese won five consecutive points to claim the lead at 18-16. Sindhu then produces her A-game and won five points on the trot to wrap up the game 21-18 to keep herself alive in the contest.
Okuhara got off the block early in the third game taking a 4-1 lead, but unforced errors started to pile up for the Japanese at the wrong time as Sindhu surged ahead at 10-8. Like the first game, Sindhu went into the break trailing 10-11 after being ahead by few points. The break changed the momentum for Okuhara as she raced to the 16-12 lead in the decider.
Sindhu bounced back to level it 16-16 and when the score was 17-17 the umpire gave Sindhu a yellow card for delaying the game. But the caution seemed to have worked as an energiser for Sindhu as from 18-all, she made sure that there were no more slip-ups and sealed the game and the match.