P V Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara once again dished out a nerve-wracking encounter that tested each other’s skills and tenacity before the world No 3 Indian carved out a 20-22, 21-18, 21-18 in victory in an hour and 24 minutes to reach her first All England Open semifinal at Arena Birmingham on Friday.

Badminton fans were expecting another humdinger from the two players who had come up with a once-in-a-lifetime summit clash at the BWF World Championship in August last year and they did not disappoint.

Both were prepared to play long rallies from the start and it was difficult to keep track of the number of times the lead kept changing hands through the three games before Sindhu clinched the semifinal spot with a net push that landed on the line.

It was neck and neck through the opening game as no player allowed the other more than two successive points till Okuhara claimed three points in a row to go into the break with a one-point advantage.

The break only gave the players added energy to push the speed of the rallies further and a 28-point rally was the perfect appetiser to what was going to follow thereafter. Sindhu kept pulling out the big smashes from her repertoire while Okuhara tried to push the Indian to the back court before unleashing the sliced drops and cross court drives to win points.

Sindhu was the first to earn a game point but a broken string while going for a winner down the line handed a lifeline to Okuhara and the Japanese grabbed it with both hands with Sindhu getting both her challenges wrong.

Sindhu was off the blocks quicker in the second game and though Okuhara never allowed her to run away with the lead, it was clear that the Indian was controlling things better and that showed when she went into the break at 11-8.

But Okukhara wasn’t going to give up easily and four straight points allowed her to take the lead for the first time in the second game at 18-16. However, Sindhu showed that she was better prepared to tackle the change in tempo as she attacked the net better to take five straight points and force a decider.

Doubts were being raised over whether Sindhu has enough left in her tank as Okuhara took a 5-2 to lead only for the Indian to draw level at 6-6 and it looked like the world No 3 was heading for another heart break when she fell four points behind at 12-16.

But instead of giving up, Sindhu took the route of aggression as she attacked the net and pushed her opponent on the back foot to level the scores at 16-16. She then showed better composure and was willing to take a warning from the umpire to just gather her breath before earning two match points and closing out the quarterfinal with a net push following another quality rally.


In the semi-final, she will face Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi who won 21-15, 21-18 in her quarter-final against Carolina Marin.