At 21-21 in the opening game of the semi-final on Saturday, PV Sindhu and He Bingjiao were locked in a slugfest at the KD Jadhav Stadium in New Delhi. They were matching each other stroke for stroke when the Chinese hit a push that hit the chord and fell over. Sindhu could not hide her frustration at that moment as she let the racquet drop from her hand and shrugged her shoulders.

It was the second straight point when the net chord had helped Bingjiao win a rally that could have gone either way and all Sindhu could do was helplessly watch the shuttle fall on her side of the court.

The two points probably showed how close the 55-minute encounter at the 2019 India Open Super 500 badminton had been and could have gone either way but for a few lucky points and error of judgement. And third seed Bingjiao made the most of it beating Sindhu 23-21, 21-18 to set up a summit clash against former world champion Ratchanok Intanon.

High tempo

The match was played at frantic pace as both Sindhu and Bingjiao engaged in long rallies, pushing each other to all four corners of the court. But what probably titled the encounter towards the Chinese was her patient approach during crucial junctures in the match combined with her superior anticipation and deception at the net.

Sindhu, who had lost the last three matches against Bingjiao, started strong and her aggressive approach at the net fetched instant success as she raced to a 19-12 lead in the opening game. However, she took the foot off the accelerator at that juncture and tried to avoid mistakes and that allowed the Chinese, ranked just one spot below the Indian star, to claw back into the game point by point.

Sindhu still had four game points in the opening game but was guilty of trying to hurry things up and made a couple of unforced errors to level scores. Sindhu got another game point soon after but was denied by the aforementioned luck of the chord twice over to lose the game.

“I think she got really lucky with the last two points with the shuttle falling in her favour after the net cord. If I would have won the first game, it would have been comparatively different in the second game,” Sindhu said after the match.

“I tried in the second game too but there were mistakes towards the end, but it was a good match,” she added.

Sindhu did start the second game strong, going for her smashes and following up with a net tap to break away from 11-11 to 14-11 and then a 16-13 lead.

But Bingjiao again ended engaging Sindhu in longer rallies and then targetted the Indian’s tired limbs with smashes on the body to level the scores.

It was another either-or situation when at 18-17, Sindhu read Bingjiao’s stroke well to go in for a quick tap. But her shot went straight to the Chinese body and her instinctive flick landed in the middle of the court with the Indian simply looking on in dismay.

Bingjiao then wrapped up the match thanks to an error from Sindhu.

“At 16-20, I wasn’t thinking of anything but just keeping the shuttle in play and putting pressure on Sindhu and I am happy that it worked,” said the third seed from China after the match.

It’s true that some luck could have turned the match on its head but then Bingjiao showed that she could write her own luck by never giving up. For Sindhu, a shaky start to the 2019 season continues.