Fighting back from a game down in the women's singles quarter-final, PV Sindhu prevailed in an 84-minute thriller against 'rival' Nozomi Okuhara to register her maiden semis appearance at the prestigious All England Open.
Leading into the match, Okuhara held a 5-4 advantage in the head-to-head record against Sindhu and the Indian ace levelled it once again with an impressive victory on Friday.
Talking to reporters after the match, the World No 4 said, "Playing against Okuhara is not easy. Both of us know each other's game and we have now played 10 times. It is just that we give our best in our games."
Friday's clash was yet another marathon match between these top shuttlers after last year's World Championships final in Glasgow. Having played with each other so many times, Sindhu feels it is not getting any easier.
"You can't expect easy points, you have to give your best and strategise your game with each point," said the Olympic silver medallist who believes a dynamic plan is more important than having a stringent approach towards the game.
Talking about the preparations for matches against Okuhara, Sindhu felt that patience was the key, especially considering the fact that the Japanese shuttler is a rally player.
"You need to consistent and wait until the last minute. Even if you hit the shuttle down, you can't think the point is over. You need to be ready till the shuttle hits the ground," said Sindhu.
Constantly plagued with criticisms of not being able to win the crucial points and end on the right side of games, Sindhu looked to be in line for receiving more, when she was trailing 12-16 in the third game of the quarter-final. However, digging her heels firmly into the ground, she believes her refusal to give up made her fight back and win the match.
Sindhu has in the past couple of years been in such close contests and more often than not has ended up on the wrong side of such encounters. Sindhu agreed that it was both physically and mentally tiring to be a part of such matches, though she believes that there has been considerable improvement in the way she responds to such crunch situations.
"There have been matches where I led 20-18 and have then gone on to lose the match. Even today, the first game was similar. I was a bit nervous, but I didn’t want to think it was over till the last minute," said Sindhu and added that her coach used to advise her about the drawbacks of losing confidence and getting nervous during such moments.
"I tend to lose points and my confidence and I get nervous. I used to just let it go thinking it is over. I have been practicing to avoid it and I think it is getting better," said Sindhu after winning the quarter-final 20-22, 21-18, 21-18.
Ahead of her first semi-final appearance where she would face the winner of the match between Carolina Marin and Akane Yamaguchi, Sindhu said that though winning the quarter-final was great, the tournament is far from over.
"I just have to go back and recover for tomorrow's (Saturday) game. It is going to be a big match. I’ll be playing the winner of Yamaguchi vs Marin. I need to recover and give my 100 percent."
On the other hand, Okuhara, who is returning from a long hiatus due to a knee injury feels she couldn't play to the best of her ability.
"It was very frustrating. Some shots should have fallen better than it did. But in my condition this was the best I could play," said Okuhara who added that she didn't have clear tactics in the clash against Sindhu, which the World No 6 felt was her best match this year.
On a side note, Okuhara expressed her happiness in finally returning to competitive badminton after her knee injury.
Meanwhile, India's national coach Pullela Gopichand said it was good that Sindhu ended up on the right side this time.
"It was a tough match. Both are used to playing very long matches. It is good that Sindhu ended up on the right side this time. Okuhara has been a fantastic fighter. I'm overall happy with the win and hopefully, she will pull through in the next two matches," said the former All England Open champion Gopichand.
Updated Date: Mar 16, 2018 23:14:13 IST