World Badminton Championships 2017: Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu continue to hold India's fort in major tournaments
Though India have been winning a medal at World Championships since 2011, this will be the first time they will have two with Saina and Sindhu in semis.
Glasgow: Two years after making it to her first World Championships final, Saina Nehwal gave herself a second chance to get into the title match, after yet another hard-fought win over local favourite, Kirsty Gilmour, in the Total Badminton World Championships on Friday. Saina won 21-19, 18-21, 21-15 to join her younger teammate, PV Sindhu in the last four.
Earlier in the day, Sindhu outclassed Sun Yun 21-14, 21-9 to reach the semis and assure herself of her third World Championships medal in four appearances. While the two girls won their quarter-finals, Srikanth Kidambi was beaten by top-seed Son Wan Ho 21-14, 21-18. Sindhu and Saina’s presence in opposite halves also raised visions of an all-Indian final. Only the Chinese and the Indonesians have done it before. While the Chinese have put two women in a final 12 times, the Indonesians did it once in 1980.
Though India have been winning a medal at World Championships since 2011, this will be the first time they will have two with Saina and Sindhu in semis. India have won a medal in the last seven major events: Five World Championships and the two Olympic Games.
While Saina was battling Kirsty, Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara stunned the two-time defending champion, Carolina Marin 21-18, 14-21, 21-15 , while Chen Yufei rallied from a game behind to beat Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 14-21, 21-16, 21-12. On Saturday, Saina will meet seventh seed Okuhara, while fourth seed Sindhu takes on China’s ninth seed Chen.
Saina was all praise for Kirsty as she said, “I was expecting a tough fight from Kirsty and she put that up. She played very well and I knew she would be tough. She has had a good year and also won some tournaments and reached finals and semi-finals. She is a strong player, too. She was also pepped up playing in front of her home crowd and she wanted to do well as this was a medal round. I was surprised how fast she began and then she stayed on till the very end. That was a fine performance from her.”
On her return from injury, Saina said, "It feels good that I am coming back and winning matches, but it was not the way I wanted it today. IT was a very difficult day. Today was a really bad day, I was not as quick as yesterday. I was sluggish to start with after long matches. I have met a lot of tough players so far, but I am really happy to have pulled through." On her semi-final opponent Okuhara, she said, “It's going to very tough, it depends on the court situation. She's a very tricky player, she keeps picking up all the shots, it's not easy but I will give my best."
On the possibility of an all-India final, Saina smiled and said, “Wait, there is still one more match to go for both of us.”
Earlier Sindhu kept up her making a habit of getting onto the podium at big events as she ensured herself a third World Championships medal. Sindhu, who had to perform the Houdini act to avoid defeat in the pre-quarters against Hong Kong’s Cheng Ngan Yi, was in total command against China’s Sun Yu in the quarter-finals. The 21-14, 21-9 verdict in just 39 minutes ensured India a medal at the World Championships for the fifth time in a row.
Sindhu, when asked if she was all primed for big events, laughed and said, “Many people tell me in the bigger events you really play well. Well, touch wood, it is good in one way. Yes, overall I am happy with my overall performance but I shouldn’t take it easy.” Sindhu added, “Of course I am happy with the performance today. Last time I played her, I lost to her (Sun Yu) in Dubai. It wasn't easy and each point was important to me, even although I was leading. Even though I had the lead, I didn’t want to give away any point. I remembered from yesterday that anything can happen, because I was game point to 17 ahead but she (Cheung) caught up.”
Sindhu’s semi-final opponent, Chen, has a 1-1 record against the Indian. Chen, who graduated from junior ranks only last year, has already eliminated No 1 seed, Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in pre-quarters. And on Friday, she also beat the 2013 World champion and former World No 1 Intanon.
On facing Chen, the Indian star remarked, “She is a good player and she is playing well. It is never easier in the semi final of a World Championship, anything can happen. I have to be prepared for everything. I have lost to her in the past, but I will take the positives from that."
However, before Sindhu’s stellar showing, Srikanth, after three fine wins, was totally at sea against the World No 1 Son Wan, whom he had beaten in their last two clashes in Indonesia and Australia, enroute to two Super Series titles.
Son Wan, changing the pace of the game often, kept Srikanth guessing. By the time the Indian realised, it was all over. Son Wan was through 21-14, 21-18 in 49 minutes. Son Wan, who helped his team win the Sudirman Cup earlier this year, is now ensured of his first individual medal at the World Championships.
Meanwhile, Lin Dan finally looked his dominant self, after scraping through last two rounds in three games. He won 21-17, 21-18 to reach the semis.
Men's Singles Quarter Finals:
Son Wan Ho-1 (South Korea) beat Srilkanth Kidambi-8 (India) 21-14, 21-18; Lin Dan-7 (China) beat Wong Wing Ki Vincent-12 (Hong Kong) 21-17 21-18 (59 minutes); Viktor Axelsen-3 (Denmark) beat Chou Tien Chen-6 (Chinese Taipei) 21-18 20-22 21-16; Chen Long-5 (China) beat Tian Houwei-10 21-12, 21-17
Women's Singles Quarter Finals:
Chen Yufei-9 (China) beat Ratchanock Intanon-8 (Thailand) 14-21 21-16 21-12; PV Sindhu-4 (India) beat Sun Yu-5 (China) 21-14, 21-9; Nozomi Okuhara (Japan) beat Carolina Marina 21-18, 14-21, 21-15; Saina Nehwal-12 (India) beat Kirsty Gilmour-16 (Scotland) 21-19, 18-21, 21-15.
India’s medal haul at world level
1983 Prakash Padukone (MS-Bronze)
2011 Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponappa (WD-Bronze)
2013 PV Sindhu (WS-Bronze)
2014 PV Sindhu (WS-Bronze)
2015 Saina Nehwal (WS-Silver)
2012 Saina Nehwal (WS-Bronze)
2016 PV Sindhu (WS-Silver)
Sindhu is one of the favourites for the gold, especially in the absence of defending champion Carolina Marin, who missed the Games due to an injury.
"Tai Tzu got lucky with that net chord. At that level, the margins are just so small. It was her day, but I feel had I won that first game, probably the result of the match would have been different,” Sindhu said.
Tokyo Olympics 2020: PV Sindhu wins bronze medal to add to silver at Rio Games, joins elite list of Indian athletes
Sindhu, who has returned with medals from each of the big-ticket events such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and BWF World Tour Finals in the last five years, outwitted eighth seed Bing Jiao 21-13 21-15 to add a bronze to her silver that she had secured at the 2016 Rio Games.