Indian shuttlers had a mixed day on Saturday at the BWF Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, with PV Sindhu reaching her third consecutive world championship final while B Sai Praneeth bagged the bronze after losing to defending champion Kento Momota in the semi-finals.
Sindhu gave Chen Yufei a lesson in aggressive badminton with a 21-7, 21-14 semi-final win in just 40 minutes in the first women’s singles semi-final and will face the winner of the match between former champions Nozomi Okuhara and Ratchanok Intanon.
Later in the day, Sai Praneeth’s dream run in the competition was halted by the marauding Momota in a 21-13, 21-8 loss. The 27-year-old would bring home a bronze medal, India’s first men’s singles medal in 36 years.
But Sindhu has kept alive India’s hopes of a first world championship crown with a domineering performance at St. Jokobshalle arena.
The world No 5, who had to come from behind to upset world No 2 Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-final on Friday, was so dominant against Yufei that she dropped two consecutive points only twice – that too at the very end of the second game by when the result of the match was in no doubt.
Irrespective of what happens on Sunday, the semi-final would go down as one of the most dominating performances from the Hyderabad shuttler against a player who has been a force to reckon with in the last couple of years.
Unlike her quarterfinal encounter, Sindhu began the match against Yufei with an aggressive intent and though her tap went out on the second point she had clearly set the marker by dominating the first two rallies.
She quickly raced to a 6-2 lead, winning points on either her smashes or those booming hits, which did the damage for the Indian to finish the point on the ensuing stroke. If not, Yufei was at hand to make an error.
Nothing that Yufei did – from engaging Sindhu in long rallies to going for broke with an all out attack – worked as Sindhu was rock solid in defence and quick to pounce on opportunities for the kill.
Yufei began making more errors under pressure and Sindhu bagged six straight points to open up a 14-3 lead and then pocketed the first game with relative ease in just 15 minutes.
Yufei showed a bit more purpose after the change of ends and stayed on Sindhu’s shoulder till 6-5 before the Indian once again broke away to take a 9-5 lead, thanks to her immaculate judgement on the baseline.
Sindhu went into the mid-game interval leading 11-7 and then kept the pressure to extend that lead to 19-10. It was only at this point, Sindhu finally made two consecutive errors to give her opponent two straight points for the first time in the match.
But if Yufei thought that she could finally find a toe-hold in the match, she was mistaken as Sindhu took the next rally to earn eight match points. The Chinese saved two of them but ultimately surrendered the match tamely, and fittingly perhaps, with a service error.
The victory means that the 24-year-old from Hyderabad has now reached the finals of every major tournament including the 2018 Asian Games and 2018 Commonwealth Games since surprising everyone by winning the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The only blemish in that enviable record has been that Sindhu ended up on the losing end of all those summit clashes and would want to change that script on Sunday.
Praneeth runs out of steam
If Sindhu was clinical, Sai Praneeth faded out after a bright start as Momota asserted his supremacy with a clever game plan and superior skills in the first men’s singles semi-final.
The 27-year-old Indian began strong, going for his trademark attacking shots and kept pace with Momota till 10-11 in the opening game but the Japanese was just warming up for a masterclass.
Aware of Sai Praneeth’s attacking threat, Momota was a lot more pro-active on Saturday and once he got the hang of the rallies after the mid-game interval he simply exploded.
The defending champion won 10 of the next 13 points, scoring heavily with the down the line smashes to become the first player to win a game against Sai Praneeth in the tournament.
The second game was a lop-sided affair as Momota simply raced away from 2-2 to a 11-3 lead and pocketed the match without much trouble. He will now face either Anders Antonsen of Denmark or Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen in the final.