◄ NEW DELHI: PV Sindhu took another step towards a maiden India Open Super Series title when she defeated Sung Ji Hyun in a marathon women’s singles semi-final to set up a final showdown with Carolina Marin. The top-ranked Indian shuttler breached Sung’s defense to win 21-18, 14-21, 21-14 in a 76 minutes match.
◄ The majority of clashes between Sindhu and the current world no 4, Sung, have extended ones. And the Rio Olympics silver medalist was prepared for that. In the initial exchanges, it was hard to separate the two. Mistakes were duly punished. A weak return from Sindhu gave Sung enough time and space to deposit the shot into the court and drew level at 2-2 after Sindhu had taken the lead in the first game.
◄ Sung was in continual search for open spaces and there were several moments when she succeeded in finding them to win points. However, the 21-year-old Indian managed her dribbles and overhead smashes perfectly to take a slim but important 11-9 lead when the break was taken.
◄ While Sung looked for the killer smashes, Sindhu attempted to trap her in the dribble game which had proved vital in her quarter-final win over compatriot Saina Nehwal on Friday. Here, the world no 5 had Sung, who is known for her solid defensive game. Every deft shot was met with an equally impressive smash. Sindhu though had the edge and with a pinpoint smash, took the game 21-18.
◄ The break between the games served as a tonic for Sung, who had beaten Sindhu at the Dubai World Super Series Finals last year to end her campaign. In the second game, Sindhu had taken a 5-2 lead at the start but then Sung started crawling back. She made Sindhu run all around the court and expertly placed her smashes to roar back and drew level at 21-14.
◄ That, as it turned out, came as a wake-up call for Sindhu and she then without wasting any time, raced to 4-0 lead. Soon long rallies followed and Sung was again plotting her way back. The capacity crowd began chanting in rhythm in anticipation of a winner from Sindhu. When it came, the roar was deafening.
◄ Clearly, the crowd favourite was feeding on the home support and the scoreline of 11-4 proved her dominance. Sung then reduced the gap to just two points at 12-10. This game looked destined to go down the wire. But then Sindhu received a weak serve and was ready to unfurl a ripper of a smash. 13-10.
◄ And Sung then committed a host of errors that allowed Sindhu to take a commanding 20-14 lead. Sung failed to return the shuttle which crashed on the net and Sindhu had the match point, winning 21-14.
◄ Sindhu will now face Carolina Marin in the title clash, their second meeting at the international stage after the final of the Rio Olympics – they last met at the Dubai World Super Series 2016 where Sindhu emerged victorious. Marin defeated Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi 21-16, 21-14 in the other semi-final.
◄ Earlier, in the men’s doubles semi-finals, the Indonesian pair Ricky Karandasuwardi/Angga Pratama beat Chinese Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen to enter the final after a 21-16, 13-21, 21-16 win in three games. They will take on Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamujo for the title who also needed three games to overcome the challenge of Dane Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding 21-14, 18-21, 21-9.
◄ In the mixed doubles semi-finals, the top-seed Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen made it to the final without even having to take the court after a walkover against Pee Song Chan/ Liu Ying Goh. They will face second seed Lui Kai/Huang Yaqiong who sailed past the England pair of Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock 21-13, 21-13.