PV Sindhu and Sameer Verma recorded similar wins in their final group matches of the BWF World Tour Finals on Friday to enter the semi-finals.
Riding high on confidence after beating defending champion Akane Yamaguchi and world No 1 Tai Tzu Ying over the last two days, Sindhu cruised past Zhang Beiwen 21-9, 21-15 in just 35 minutes.
Sindhu thereby topped her group with three wins out of three, and will take on former world champion Ratchanok Intanon in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Intanon finished second in her group, behind Nozomi Okuhara. The second semifinal is an all-Japanese affair with Okuhara taking on Yamaguchi.
Verma, meanwhile, beat Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-9, 21-18 in 44 minutes to finish second in his group, behind world champion Kento Momota. Verma will take on All England champion Shi Yuqi in the semis.
Momota revved into the last four with a third comprehensive victory. The all-action Japanese star powered past Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto 21-14, 21-8 in just 36 minutes.
Starting the match from her preferred side of the court, Sindhu started slowly and went 2-6 down but then switched on and went on a great run. From 9-8, she went on a run of nine straight points to take the game away from Zhang. She lost only one more point after that before wrapping up the game 21-9.
Zhang played a lot better in the second game after the two players switched ends. One of her net shots was so incredibly precise and unplayable that even Sindhu could not help but smile. However, the Indian was not in a mood to let the court side affect the result of the game.
Sindhu defended well, while her attacking shots were quite accurate as she won the second game 21-15 to seal a straight-games win.
Elsewhere, men’s doubles top seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, and women’s singles player Chen Yufei withdrew from the tournament with injuries.
Gideon complained of a neck injury that forced the Indonesians to withdraw from their last group match against China’s Han Chengkai and Zhou Haodong.
Chen Yufei retired in her group match against Okuhara with a right ankle injury.
Update: Later, world No 1 Tai Tzu Ying retired midway through her match against Yamaguchi as well, throwing the tournament wide open.
According to the tournament’s rules, if illness or injury prevents a player from completing all the group matches, all the results of that player in the group will be void. Retiring during a match is considered to be not completing all group matches.
As a result, men’s doubles Group A had three pairs left in contention – Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen, Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen, and Han Chengkai/Zhou Haodong. As both Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen and Astrup/Rasmussen beat Han Chengkai/Zhou Haodong, they will progress to the semi-finals.
In women’s singles Group B, Chen Yufei’s retirement meant that Okuhara and Intanon progressed to the semi-finals. Okuhara had two wins – over Intanon and Michelle Li – while Intanon also beat Li to clinch her place in the semi-finals.
(Clarification: The report originally said identical wins for Verma and Sindhu, that has been corrected now.)