Olympic medallists PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, on Sunday, headed for a gold medal showdown at the 18th Asian Games after their quarter-final victories ensured India’s first ever women’s singles medals at the continental event.
Saina, first, ended a 36-year-old wait for an individual medal following a 21-18, 21-16 win over world No 5 Ratchanok Intanon in a 42-minute quarter-final.
Sindhu, then, bested world No 12 Nitchaon Jindapol 21-11, 16-21, 21-14 in the other quarter-final.
The last Indian to win an individual medal at the Asian Games was legendary Syed Modi, who won a men’s singles bronze in 1982 at New Delhi.
India has won eight badminton medals at the Asian Games and six of them are in team events and one in men’s doubles.
In the semi-finals, Saina faces world No 1 and top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, while Sindhu will take on either China’s Chen Yufei or world No 2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.
Commenting on the historic medals assured, Sindhu said she is hungry for more.
“It’s great (that medals are assured) moment but it’s not over yet. It should be the best and not just a medal. That’s how I feel,” said world No 3 Sindhu.
On an all-Indian final looming, Sindhu said, “It will be very good for Indian badminton, two players in the final, hopefully, it will happen.”
Saina and Sindhu had clashed at the final of the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in April with the former emerging victorious.
Saina said she was not aware who won the last individual medal.
“We were actually discussing that. We did not know. Gopi Sir [Indian badminton coach Pullela Gopichand] said keep the phone away,” said the world no 10 Indian.
She came into this match with a superior record with four wins in the last five meetings against the Thai.
“She was playing strong and I knew she will challenge me. I was taking her seriously, she had beaten Sung Ji Hyun in the previous match and first time I saw her playing well against a rally player,” Saina said.
Saina said the deafening cheers of the crowd also made it challenging for her.
“She had the lead, I had the good record against her, crowd was shouting (for Indonesian player on adjacent court), so many things were playing in my mind. You could not hear the shuttle (due to noise), you have to be alert.”
The London Olympics bronze medallist will next take on Tai Tzu Ying, who knocked out 2017 World Champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan 21-15, 21-10 in another quarter-final.