In in the most anticipated match of the India Open, PV Sindhu emerged victorious over Saina Nehwal 21-16, 22-20 in the first Superseries meeting between the top 2 Indian players. It was a game that lived up to the billing as none gave an inch to the other, but finally Sindhu managed to romp home.
Today’s India Open quarterfinal encounter between Sindhu and Saina was seen as one for bragging rights as much as qualification into the semi-final of the tournament. After all, this was the first time that the duo were facing off in a Super series event and that too, at home. The last time the two faced off was at the Syed Modi International in 2014. However, Sindhu’s Olympic medal at the Rio Games combined with Saina’s injury at the same event meant that, Sindhu has now become the poster girl of Indian badminton.
Sindhu claimed the first point of the match but that was countered on the very next point by Saina. The two kept on exchanging points till the scoreboard reflected a score of 5-5. It was Saina’s turn to exert some pressure on her counterpart taking a 7-5 lead. But, Sindhu came back strong winning the next four points in a row to take a two-point lead of her own. Keeping up with the trend of the game, Saina fought back to level the game at 9-9 before going into the break trailing 11-9 after Sindhu picked up two quick points.
After the interval, Sindhu raced to a 15-9 lead, using her agility and reach to force Saina to try and play the perfect shot too often. However, Saina was struggling to find her range and after a small revival found herself trailing 19-14. Saina tried her best to launch a comeback with some precise smashes, both into Sindhu’s body and down the line, the damage had already been done as Sindhu sealed the first game 21-16 in just 19 minutes.
Saina came out for the second game with a renewed sense of intent and flew into a 4-1 lead, before Sindhu closed the gap to 3-4 with a jaw dropping cross court winner. But Saina kept her nose in front and with Sindhu pulling the game back to within a point, a wonderful body smash kept Saina in the lead at 8-6. Over the next four points, Saina managed to take a four point lead into the interval, winning three of four points - the last one a beautiful drop from the baseline.
After the mid game break, Saina continued from where she had left off and consolidated her lead at 13-9. Sindhu fought back, winning five out of six points, to cut the deficit to two points at 12-14, before a couple of body smashes from Nehwal handed her a 16-12 lead. But Sindhu wasn’t ready to give up on the game yet and despite breaking the strings of her racquet, she managed to produce a pinpoint smash to bring the score to 15-16. However, Sindhu was starting to play her natural game with some panache, taking the game to Saina as she took three straight points to level the game at 19-19. Saina had a great chance to take the match into a decider but a service error brought the game level again. Sindhu, who had been second best throughout the second game took the first point after Nehwal misjudged a point on the baseline. On the next point, Sindhu hit a perfect smash down the line to end Saina’s challenge at the India Open.
Sindhu will now face World No. 3 Sung Ji-Hyun in the semi-final of the tournament today after the South Korean had beaten Ratchanok Intanon by the identical score of 21-16, 22-20 in the earlier quarter final.