Reigning world champion PV Sindhu entered the summit clash of BWF World Tour Finals with a hard fought win over Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in the semifinals here on Saturday.

The two-time Olympic medallist defeated Yamaguchi 21-15 15-21 21-19 in a thrilling match. Sindhu pulled off a hard-fought win over 70 minutes a semi-final of high quality.

She will face Korea’s teenage star An Seyoung, who beat Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand 25-23 21-17 in the other semifinal. It promises to be a tough test for Sindhu as the red-hot An Seyoung is looking for her third title in three weeks in Bali, having clinched Indonesia Masters and Indonesia Open without dropping a single game. She also has a 2-0 record against Sindhu at the moment.

It will be Sindhu’s third final appearance in the season-ending tournament (Superseries Finals / World Tour Finals). She had won the title in 2018 to become the only Indian to achieve the feat.

The world number 7 Indian had come into the match with an overall head-to-head win-loss record of 12-8 against the world number three Japanese and she triumphed in meeting in No 21 in thrilling style.

Sindhu has been in good form after picking up a bronze in the Tokyo Olympics but a final appearance has eluded here. She had reached the semifinals in her last three events – French Open, Indonesia Masters and Indonesia Open – before coming into the BWF World Tour Finals. In fact, she had lost in her last five semi-finals previously. She had finished runner-up in the Swiss Open in March.

Here’s how the three games panned out (scroll or swipe either way to see all graphs):

Sindhu trailed 0-4 in the first game but quickly came to level terms at 4-4 and then 9-9. The duo were neck and neck but Sindhu zoomed ahead from 15-14 to reach 18-15. She then took three straight points to pocket the first game.

The second game was also a tight contest as the two players were level at 10-10 before Yamaguchi shifted the gear to pocket it without much fuss. It was a mirror image of the first game. Sindhu had to rely on her defence a lot to win points while the former world No 1 went all-out attack.

In the deciding game, Sindhu and Yamaguchi were tied at 5-5 before the Indian reeled off seven straight points to be in a great position at the change of ends. The Japanese made a comeback by narrowing down the gap to 11-13 but Sindhu moved ahead to 17-12.

Yamaguchi was not the one to throw the towel without a fight and this is where the quality of the match truly became world class. Terrific net play from Yamaguchi and a solid attacking game from Sindhu that relied often on the crosscourt downward shots, took the scoreline to 19-19. But Sindhu saved the best for the last as she won consecutive points to win the third game and pocket the match.

Later in the day, young Indian shuttler Lakshya Sen bowed out in straight games 13-21, 11-21 against Olympic champion and world number one Viktor Axelsen of Denmark in the men’s singles semifinals. Sen had moments of brilliance during the match, including one of the points of the year, but Axelsen was too good overall and sealed his place in the final against Thai youngster Kunlavut Vitidsarn.

Lakshya Sen produces a mind-blowing save against Viktor Axelsen at BWF World Tour Finals

Axelsen inched closer to a second trophy at the three back-to-back events in Indonesia.

The Olympic gold medallist, who won the Indonesia Open on the men’s singles last week, dominated both games before easily sealing a victory against Sen in a match that lasted in 39 minutes.

The Dane will face Thailand’s unseeded Vitidsarn, who knocked out Malaysia’s rising star Lee Zii Jia in a two-set match 21-18, 21-18 in the semi-finals on Saturday.