PV Sindhu made her way to the Thailand Open Super 500 semifinals on Friday with a hard-fought victory against World No 1 Akane Yamaguchi in Bangkok.
Sindhu, the only Indian to reach the quarterfinals at the event, defeated Yamaguchi 21-15, 20-22, 21-13 in 51 minutes to improve her head-to-head record against the Japanese player to 14-9.
The 26-year-old will face China’s reigning Olympic champion Chen Yufei, who got the better of Canada’s Michelle Li 21-14, 20-22, 21-17 in the semifinals.
As it happened: Sindhu beats Yamaguchi to reach Thailand Open semis
The last time Sindhu and Yamaguchi met was in the semifinals of the Asian Championships in April, with the Indian ending up on the losing side after being frustrated with the officiating in that match.
But she made up for that with a fine performance on Friday.
Sindhu looked a bit tentative at the start of the quarterfinal but picked up steam soon enough and won five points in a row before taking a 11-9 lead to the interval. The contest kept going back and forth and Yamaguchi took a 14-12 lead, but Sindhu once again switched gears to win seven straight points before closing out the opener in 15 minutes. Her movement was on point and she kept troubling her opponent with a blend of power and wonderfully-controlled drop shots.
Yamaguchi started the second game on a strong note and won the longest rally up until then to lead 3-0, but Sindhu, for the third time in the match, went on a hot streak and won 10 out of 11 points to lead 11-5 at the interval.
There were worrying signs for the Japanese star as she struggled with her movement and seemed keen to finish points quickly. But out of nowhere, there was a dramatic turnaround in the match after the second game interval as Yamaguchi launched a fightback.
The reigning world champion raised her intensity and started dictating points, with Sindhu perhaps guilty of losing a bit of her aggression and engaging in longer rallies. The Indian also struggled with the drift on both sides of the court and kept leaving shuttles at the back only to see them land in repeatedly. Yamaguchi kept closing down the gap before pulling ahead and converting her third game point to take the match to a decider.
Sindhu would have been disappointed to not close out the match in straight games but she needed to respond quickly. The decider was neck and neck to begin with and Yamaguchi led 7-6. However, Sindhu switched tactics and went on the offensive again and won five straight points to take a lead to the interval for the third time in the match.
Yamaguchi dug deep to manage one final fightback and closed the gap to 11-13. But it was all Sindhu thereafter as she won 8 out of last 10 points to seal the match. Yamaguchi once again seemed off balance, with the commentators even suggesting she had pain in her lower back, while Sindhu had regained her composure and found her range.
It was a match in which neither shuttler was at their best consistently enough but Sindhu, with coach Park Tae Sang back in corner after a break, produced the better consistency. There were visible moments of frustration for her especially towards the end of the second game but in the end all that mattered was a win and she extended her H2H record against the Japanese star to 14-9. The reward for Sindhu is a match-up that we haven’t seen in a while, as the Indian herself recounted in a BWF interview recently. Chen Yufei, the Olympic champion, will offer a stiff test but Sindhu has had a good record against her in the past, leading 6-4 on H2H even though they last played at the end of 2019.
The other semi-final will be a 31st meeting between former world champions Ratchanok Intanon and current world No 2 Tai Tzu Ying.
All images courtesy Tournament Software