PV Sindhu won. Rather, it would be apt to say PV Sindhu survived.
The Rio Olympic silver medallist perhaps had to dig into the final ounce of her reserves to see of Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong 19-21, 23-21, 21-17 but the quality of the match would hardly make the 22-year-old or her coaches proud.
Sindhu was visibly sluggish in the opening game and struggled to get into a decent rhythm from where she could build on. But to her credit the only Indian to have won two World Championship medals hung on till her opponent cracked to book another quarterfinal appearance in the 23rd edition of the championship in Glasgow.
She completely missed a tap on the net once, dived and stayed on the floor for almost a minute to catch her breathe, at times tried to break her opponent’s rhythm and played one big rally in the second game as if her life depended on and did just enough to cut down her mistakes to win in an hour and 27 minutes.
“I think that one big rally at 21 point in the second game gave me the belief that this is my match now,” said Sindhu, who now has a 4-0 head-to-head record against Cheung.
Prior to that point, Sindhu had wasted three games points in the second game as she had no answer to her opponent’s penetrative smashes and it was important for the 22-year-old to make a statement of intent.
And there could have been no better way than hanging in on a rally that lasted almost a minute and half, chasing down every shuttle and when Cheung ultimately hit out, the cry of elation was more emphatic than when she ultimately won the match.
Sindhu had chased the first game through-out but when she took a 19-18 lead, it felt that the Indian could make this a routine win from there. But she again made a couple of mistakes and lost the game and from thereon it was the pressure of coming back into the match that made things difficult for her.
She began the second game well as she opened up a 4-0 lead but to the credit of Cheung she stepped up the pace to push Sindhu on the back-foot.
“I always knew that it was not going to be an easy match. There were long rallies and I knew that I had to keep staying there. My coaches were also telling me the same,” she said to a query about what was going on in her mind when things were not really going her way.
The decider had a similar script with Sindhu opening up a lead only for the Hong Kong shuttler to fight back. But it was probably Sindhu’s experience of playing the big matches helped her pull through as her opponent just tried too many things at the business end of the match and ended up making errors.
Sindhu will now take on China’s Sun Yu in the quarterfinals, who also was taken the distance by Spain’s Beatriz Corrales 21-11 19-21 23-21 in an hour and 16 minutes.
Speaking about the quarterfinals, Sindhu said she was prepared for yet another tough encounter. “It’s not going to be easy because it is the quarterfinal of the World Championship. She is tall and I am tall and every point will be fought for.”
The Chinese holds a 4-3 advantage over Sindhu but the two haven’t faced each other since the BWF World Superseries Finals group stage in December last year and having pulled off a match where she was far from her best, the world number four Indian shuttler should be backing herself to make the effort count.
Earlier in the day, three-time Superseries winner K Srikanth saw off the challenge from Denmark’s Anders Antonsen 21-14 21-18 in just 42 minutes to set up yet another clash against world number one Son Wan Ho of Korea.
Srikanth defeated the 29-year-old Korean twice in two weeks enroute to win the Indonesia Superseries Premier and Australia Superseries but the 24-year-old insisted that past results don’t really matter. “Yes I beat him twice but then there has been a two months break and this is the World Championship and everyone will be well prepared.”
Speaking about his performance in the tournament so far, Srikanth said he was happy with the way he was playing and it was important to maintain the momentum going into the quarterfinals.