It looked like PV Sindhu had her first major world title in the bag when she won the first game of the summit clash of the Dubai Superseries Finals against top seed Akane Yamaguchi 21-15 but it wasn’t to be as the Japanese stormed back to win in three games. Yamaguchi thereby added a second Superseries title to her tally this year, robbing Sindhu of her third.

Sindhu had needed just 36 minutes to beat Yamaguchi when the two had last met – on Friday in the group stage of this tournament. The Indian started Sunday’s final well and for a while it looked like there would be a repeat of Friday’s match.

Both players went for the longer rallies right from the start. Yamaguchi was leading 8-5 in the first game before Sindhu won eight straight points to make it 13-8. Sindhu surprised the Japanese with quick attacks as she stepped on the gas early and hit some sharp winners.

She varied her pace very well and raced to a 5-0 lead in the second game, with Yamaguchi looking down and out. However, this was when the Japanese flicked on a switch and decided to take the attack to Sindhu herself. She went into the interval of the second game with a two-point advantage, putting some pressure on Sindhu.

The change in momentum was too much to take for the Indian as she collapsed in the second half of the game to let Yamaguchi take the match into a decider. Sindhu erred by allowing Yamaguchi to dictate the terms of the game, as the Japanese stepped up the pace and made the Indian cover all corners of the court.

As the third game began, the rallies became longer as both players tested each other’s fitness and endurance. Sindhu again got a handy 4-0 lead before Yamaguchi fought back to make it 6-6. Sindhu took a 11-8 lead into the interval to put the pressure back on Yamaguchi but the Japanese again managed to claw her way back.

The two players went neck and neck in the second half of the decider as the match soon entered the Sindhu-Okuhara territory. At 13-13, the two players produced the best rally of the match that went to Sindhu, leaving Yamaguchi flat on the court and the Indian, on her knees. It was great defence from Sindhu as she returned two un-returnable smashes.

But at 19-19, Sindhu netted an attempted lift to hand Yamaguchi match point. She was made to pay for the error at such a crucial stage as Sindhu committed her second straight unforced error to concede the match.