PV Sindhu once again proved that she is a big-tournament player as she upset world No 2 Tai Tzu Ying 12-21, 23-21, 21-19 in 71 pulsating minutes to reach the semi-finals of the BWF Badminton World Championships in Basel on Friday. The Indian kept her nerves and raised the game when it mattered the most to come from behind to win the encounter.
The 24-year-old, who assured herself a fifth World Championship medal in six appearances with a semi-final berth, looked down and out in the opening game and was playing catch up in the first half of the second before turning the tables on Tai Tzu, who once again returned empty-handed from the tournament.
She will now take on the winner of the other quarter-final between China’s Chen Yufei and Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark.
Later, B Sai Praneeth also ensured a medal in men’s singles by beating Asian Games Champion Jonathan Christie in straight game to reach the semi-finals.
(B Sai Praneeth beats Jonathan Christie - match report here.)
The opening game was a lop-sided affair as Tai Tzu Ying’s quality of strokes and precision was too much to handle for Sindhu.
The two players shared the spoils in the first four points before two lucky net chords gave Tai Tzu a 4-2 lead. She then began putting pressure on Sindhu with her sharp drops and down the line smashes to take nine of the 11 points an open up an 11-4 lead at the mid-game interval.
While the world No 2 cruised through the game, Sindhu was guilty of being passive in her approach and that played in Tai Tzu’s hands as she increased the gap to 18-9. It was at this point that Sindhu managed to engage her opponent in two rallies of more than 20 shots and looked more in control despite the game out of her grasp.
Sindhu began the second game from where she left in the first, engaging Tai Tzu in a 38-shot rally that had pace and quality and the Taipei shuttler ended up making an error while going for a sharp shot. Though regular services were restored soon after in terms of points scored, the Indian was clearly playing with much more purpose.
And that began to show results when she won five straight points to take a 10-8 lead and went into the mid-game break with a two-point advantage.
While Tai Tzu tried to inject sudden pace in her strokes and rallies to win the points, Sindhu managed to keep her cool and play according to the game plan of engaging her opponent in rallies and not giving her easy points.
This meant that Tai Tzu ended up making a few errors that gave Sindhu two game points at 20-18. The world No 2 saved them both and yet another one when the Indian hit a half smash wide but could not avoid the decider.
Sindhu earned her fourth game point with a fantastic service return and then finished the game with a cross-court drive that Tai Tzu could not reach in time.
The decider was a nerve-wracking affair as Tai Tzu suddenly raised the tempo and took a 9-5 lead before Sindhu slowly but surely clawed her way back. The fifth-seeded Indian then began taking her time between points. She chased down every shuttle and Tai Tzu began getting impatient with every additional stroke.
The world No 2 still held a two-point advantage as the players changed ends and Sindhu was playing catch up with Tai Tzu holding a 17-15 lead.
Sindhu then surprised her opponent with a reverse slice winner and then won three more points on the canter to take a 19-17 lead. Tai Tzu managed to pull the advantage back but the relentless pressure got to the Taipei shuttler as she hit her smash wide on match point to send the Indian through to the semi-finals.