PV Sindhu managed to stave off a spirited challenge from Cai Yanyan of China to reach the semi-finals of the Singapore Open Super 500 badminton tournament while Saina Nehwal and Sameer Verma were knocked out at the quarter-final stage.
Srikanth battled hard against Japanese ace Kento Momota but his losing streak continued. After going down narrowly in the first game 18-21, the Indian took the second game 21-19. However, normal service resumed as world No 1 soon found his groove and hammered Srikanth 21-9 in the final game, and book a place in the semi-final.
Sindhu needed just under an hour to beat Cai 13-21, 21-17, 21-14. However, chances of an all-Indian semi-final were shattered even before the Rio Olympics silver medallist took the court as Nehwal was no match for Okuhara in the 36 minute quarter-final encounter that ended 21-8, 21-13.
Sindhu will now face Okuhara for a spot in the final. Fourth seed Sindhu, who had not dropped a single game before the quarter-final, began aggressively opting to employ her half smashes and quick drops to unsettle her opponent.
Cai managed to keep pace with Sindhu in the opening few exchanges but the Indian clinched six straight points to take a 11-4 lead and never looked back from there on.
But a change of sides also meant change in playing conditions for the two players and Sindhu was clearly tentative with her lifts and drives as she was afraid of the shuttle going long. That allowed Cai to get a better grip on the proceedings as the Chinese player began targetting Sindhu’s body with her smashes and opened up a 16-8 lead.
But just when it looked like Cai could run away with the game, Sindhu changed tactics and began playing a lot flatter and keeping the shuttle down. As the pressure built on the world No 18 from China, she began to make a few mistakes and the Indian stitched together a series of seven points to close the gap to 15-16.
However, a mistake on the net dribble by Sindhu after controlling the rally well gave Cai an opening and she grabbed the opportunity to pocket the second game and force a decider.
In the third and final game, Sindhu showed that she was clearly the better player as she raced to a 11-5 lead, smashing her way to winning most of the points. With such a lead, the two-time world championship silver medallist was far more in control of the proceedings and though Cai managed to save three match points, the Indian’s passage to her second semi-final of the season was never in doubt.
Earlier, Nehwal was clearly far from her best against Okuhara and by the time she figured out what she needed to do, the first game had slipped out of her hand.
The Indian was guilty of making too many unforced errors at the start as she trailed 0-9 before going into the mid-game interval at 1-11. She did manage to find some rhythm after the break and won a few more points but she was never likely to force a turn around.
Nehwal began the second game with much more authority and decided to take the attack to her opponent by playing more downward strokes and being aggressive at the net.
That allowed her to open up a 4-0 lead before Okuhara worked on pushing Nehwal around the court and tire her out. She also started increasing the pace and managed to go into the break with a three point lead at 11-8.
Though Nehwal tried to keep pace with her opponent and won the longest rally of the match – 31 strokes – with her trademark cross court smash, she was always chasing the game after losing the lead and never managed to stage a comeback.
Later in the day, Verma fought hard to stage a comeback against second seed Chou Tien Chen but could not register an upset, going down 21-10, 15-21, 21-15 in an hour and nine minutes.
The Syed Modi Open champion struggled to find his rhythm in the opening game and that allowed Chou to race through the opener as he dominated the net.
In the second, Verma was far more effective with his defence and made the most of the better playing conditions to earn few valuable points with down the line smashes to force a decider.
However, he was guilty of conceding early lead in the third and final game and though he tried to turn the tables after change of ends, the four point lead at the mid game interval was too big to breach.
India’s challenge in mixed doubles category also came to an end when Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy went down 21-14, 21-16 against Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand.