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India Open 2018: Top-seed PV Sindhu faces first big challenge of new season in Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon

New Delhi: The Siri Fort Indoor Stadium witnessed a disastrous couple of rounds at the India Open as a host of Indian shuttlers crashed out after disappointing performances. Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, B Sai Praneeth, Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy couldn't reach the semi-finals of the $350,000 event. The only luxury left for the Indian fans is watching PV Sindhu and the mixed doubles pair of Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra compete in the semi-finals of the India Open.

File image of PV Sindhu. AFP

File image of PV Sindhu. AFP

After a straight-game loss to compatriot Saina Nehwal at the Indonesia Masters last week, Sindhu has managed to deliver stellar performances in the opening two rounds in India before being stretched to three games in the quarter-final on Friday. During her 21-10, 21-13 victory over Natalia Koch Rhode, Sindhu was not troubled by the Dane’s attack as she had little difficulty in advancing. The 22-year-old replicated the same display against Bulgaria’s Linda Zetchiri to register a comfortable 21-10, 21-14 win.

Against World No 35 Beatriz Corrales, Sindhu was made to pay for losing focus in the second game. After the mid-game break of the opening game, the Hyderabad-born shuttler relied on her forehand smashes to take a 1-0 lead. However, Corrales made a fine comeback with a flurry of classy wrist strokes to send alarm bells ringing in Sindhu’s camp. It was in the third game when Sindhu made full use of her range and reach to send the Spaniard packing and set up a mouth-watering clash with third seed Ratchanok Intanon.

The Thai shuttle queen, who replaced Sindhu as World No 3 in the latest BWF rankings, has had a far better outing than the Indian so far in the tournament. To begin with, she thrashed left-handed Rasika Raje 21-4, 21-6 in just 22 minutes before sending yet another Indian Aakarshi Kashyap packing 21-11, 21-12 in the second round. Before the match, one would have assumed that the quarter-final clash between a real contest between Intanon and seventh seed Yip Pui Yin, but the Thai ace swept Yip aside with a 21-11, 21-11 victory.

Hence, the semi-final tie against Intanon will be Sindhu’s first big challenge of the 2018 season. In other words, Sindhu is yet to play a top-class player in this season. On the contrary, Intanon has gathered the much-needed momentum at the start of the year by beating World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying to take the season-opener Malaysia Masters home and reaching the semi-finals of the Indonesia Masters last week.

What also gives Intanon a slight edge over Sindhu is the fact that she will be playing in her third straight semi-final of 2018 in a span of 20 days. There's no question about the World No 3's mental strength going into the tie. Intanon leads 4-2 in the overall head-to-head meetings with Sindhu but that isn’t a worry for the latter having beaten her in straight games at the Hong Kong Open in November. So, Sindhu may her have task cut out in passing the Intanon test but her on-court awareness and steely gameplay could prove pivotal in her bid for a spot in her second straight India Open final.

Meanwhile, the other Indians playing on the day will be Reddy and Chopra, who have clicked well in the last couple of years. The eight-seed pair squares off against Christinna Pedersen and Mathias Christiansen of Denmark.

While the Sikki and Pranaav have shown quality attacking and court coverage in the three rounds so far, Pedersen and Christiansen have been patient in their style of play. This is the first time these two pairs will to compete against each other, making the match even more interesting. “Things are going well for us. Tan (Kim Her) coach has helped us a lot since he has come and I’m happy with the results,” said Chopra. “We just need to play our game tomorrow and against a strong Danish pair,” he added.

There will be pressure on the Indian duo to live up to the expectations but it would be interesting to see whether the crowd support can make things easy for them.


Published Date: Feb 03, 2018 16:09 PM | Updated Date: Feb 03, 2018 16:09 PM

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