PV Sindhu started her title defence at the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou with a tough defeat as she went down to Japanese world No 4 Akane Yamaguchi in three games on Wednesday.

The Indian lost 21-18, 18-21, 8-21 in the first game of Group A of women’s singles against the Japanese, who she had beaten ten times in her career before. However, Yamaguchi continued her recent dominance over Sindhu as she won her third straight encounter against the Indian.

Sindhu took time to get going in the first game as the contest was neck and neck until Sindhu stepped it up before the interval to take a 11-8 lead.

The Indian staved off a fightback from the Japanese at 17-11 in the first game as she won four points in a row to take the first game 21-18.

Sindhu seemed to take the ascendancy into the second game when she went 11-6 up at the interval.

However, the spirited Japanese former world No 1, who was guilty of making too many unforced errors earlier, fought back valiantly to level the second game at 15-15.

Sindhu regained the lead shortly after but it was to be a rare moment of Indian joy in the match that followed.

Yamaguchi bounced back with five straight points to force the match into a decider.

The world No 4 raised her game in the decider, completely dominating Sindhu who seemed to run out of ideas to break the flow of her opponent.

Taking a 11-3 lead at the interval in the decider, the Japanese never looked back to close the game with a 21-8 scoreline and win her first game at the season-ending Tour Finals.

In the other game in Sindhu’s group, Chen Yu Fei eased past He Bing Jiao in straight games in the all-Chinese affair and will face Sindhu next on Thursday.

The Indian would have to quickly pick herself up after a physically and emotionally draining defeat when she faces the Chinese in two must-win encounters to follow.