Kidambi Srikanth reached his first BWF World Tour final in over an year as he got the better of China’s Huang Yuxiang 16-21, 21-14, 21-19 in an hour and four minutes in the semi-final at the India Open Super 500 badminton tournament in New Delhi on Saturday.
The world No 7 Indian went into the match as the favourite having held a 3-1 head-to-head record against the Chinese ranked 23 places below him in the world ranking. He will now face former world No 1 Viktor Axelsen who beat India’s P Kashyap 21-11, 21-17.
In the women’s singles semi-final, PV Sindhu failed to overcome He Bingjiao of China and made a disappointing exit from the tournament after a 21-23, 18-21 loss. Bingjiao will face Rantanaok Intanon in the final on Sunday. The Thai girl was surprisingly pushed to the limits in the semi-final against Han Yue before prevailing 21-15, 19-21, 21-18.
It was the second come-from-behind win for Srikanth at India Open this year, after his quarter-final triumph against B Sai Praneeth. He was also stretched to three games in the opener.
The opening game of the first semi-final was a scratchy affair as both players struggled to control the flight of the shuttle and ended up playing the tosses mid court to the advantage of their opponent. It meant that anyone getting the first opportunity to attack won the point during the initial exchanges as Srikanth took an one-point advantage into the break.
But it was Huang who raised the level at 14-14, dominating the rallies with quick downward strokes to win six straight points. Srikanth managed to save two game points before a sliced drop sailed wide to hand the first game to the Chinese.
Srikanth was much more in control after the change of ends as he had the better opportunity to attack. The Indian made the most of it by racing to a 11-4 lead. And by the time Huang managed to get a hang of his game plan and stitched together a string of three consecutive points, his opponent had a sizeable 19-14 lead and a lucky net chord was enough to earn him a game point.
The former champion began the decider with the same confidence and though Huang had the advantage of playing from the better side of the court, it was the Indian who constructed the points better as he went into the break with a one point advantage.
But the final change of ends, saw Srikanth losing concentration as Huang went on the offensive and took a 12-15 lead in the decider. It was a lucky net chord that helped the Indian close the gap and the two rallies while trailing 17-18 set the match up for the local favourite.
Srikanth dominated both those rallies and even though Huang did well to stay in them for long, the Indian showed the patience to wait for an opportunity to finish the point. The Chinese did save a match point with a smart cross court return but the Indian had things under control, wrapping up the match second time of asking.
Other Indians lose
The hopes of an all-India final were quashed by Axelsen who dominated the first game and then saw off a comeback from Kashyap to win the other semi-final in straight games.
The Dane was easily the better of the two players as he made Kashyap cover a lot of ground in the first game by pushing the shuttle on the Indian’s backhand and finish with a cross-court smash or a chip.
By the time Kashyap realised the strategy, Axelsen had run away with the first game.
In the second game, Kashyap made a good start and took a 4-1 lead before a couple of shots into the net from him gave Axelsen a few easy points.
But Kashyap still controlled the game and led 11-9 at the break. He later extended it to 14-11 with clinical finishes at the back court.
Axelsen made another good comeback to tie it 17-17 and seized the advantage as Kashyap hit two returns in the net to hand Axelsen three match points. He converted the first one by a cross-court chip which Kashyap feel to retrieve, thus losing the game 17-21.
In the women’s singles semi-final, Sindhu gave up on big leads in both games to allow Bingjiao to come back and win the match which was well in control of Sindhu.
The Indian had built a 20-16 lead in the first game and was set to win when net errors and some sloppy defence cost her the match points. Bingjiao then took the game 23-21.
Sindhu began the second game on a similar note and was looking good to tie the match but once again allowed Bingjiao to tie the second game 15-15 after leading 14-11.
The Chinese used a combination of body smash and quick return from the net to make it 18-18 before Sindhu hit one in the net to trail 18-19. The Indian hit two wide on return to lose the game and match 21-23, 18-21 in 55 minutes.
In the final match of the day, Indian pair of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy were no match to Indonesian pair of Ricky Karandasuwardi and Angga Pratama of India as they lost their semi-final 12-21, 17-21 in 26 minutes.