Rio 2016 | PV Sindhu confirms medal; becomes first Indian shuttler to enter Olympic final

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Rio 2016 | PV Sindhu confirms medal; becomes first Indian shuttler to enter Olympic final

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SportsCafe Desk

08/18/2016

PV Sindhu became the first Indian in the history of Olympics to enter the final of a badminton event after registering a straight-set victory over World No.6 Nozomi Okuhara in the semis. Sindhu confirmed a medal for India with the win, as she defeated the Japanese 21-19, 21-10 in 49 minutes.

Sakshi Malik started it yesterday with a bronze, and Sindhu took it forward today by entering the final. 

After playing the match of her life in the quarters to oust world no.2 and 2012 Olympics silver medallist Wang Yihan, PV Sindhu reached the last-four hoping to become the first India shuttler to enter a final in the Olympics. Nozomi Okuhara of Japan was standing in her way, and with the World No. 6 leading the head-to-head record 3-1 going into the match, it was clear that Sindhu needed another big performance to get past the Japanese shuttler. 

A cross-court smash gave Okuhara the first point of the match, but Sindhu used her height effectively against the Japanese shuttler and went into a 4-1 lead, courtesy of a brilliant cross-court return which left Okuhara stranded on the court. Sindhu pushed and pushed the Japanese shuttler to the backcourt with some deep shots, and then she produced some clinical drops to the front court to win the points. The strategy was clear, and Okuhara failed to cope up with it as Sindhu went into the break with a 11-6 lead. 

Sindhu's first point after the break showed her determination to win the match. Both players pushed each other all over the court, then Sindhu pushed Okuhara to the baseline, and made a hair-pin drop to perfection. The shuttlecock slowly climbed over the net, and it stood on the top of the net before deciding to stumble into Okuhara's court. The Japanese made a desperate dive, but she failed to return it. 

But, Okuhara was not ready to go without a fight. The Japanese shuttler pulled it back to 10-12 after the break, but Sindhu’s reach helped her pick up points regularly. Apart from a few wayward smashes, the 21-year-old looked composed on the court, and showed no signs of pressure even when playing arguably the biggest match of her career so far. Sindhu took a three-point lead at 18-15, and she looked on course to take the first set, but Okuhara once again pulled it back to 18-19. However, Sindhu got to set point with a clinical drop which found no reply from her opponent.  Although there were some nervous moments at the end, Sindhu held on until Okuhara made the error under pressure by sending a straightforward shot into the net to take the set 21-19. 

History was one set away from Sindhu, and the 21-year-old youngster started from where she had left off in the opening set, and scored three points in a row to take a 3-0 lead. It looked like an easy game for Sindhu, and with her height troubling Okuhara, the set was Sindhu’s to lose. But, just as everybody thought it was easy for Sindhu, the Japanese World No.6 came back from nowhere, and with the Indian playing some wayward smashes, Okuhara drew par at 5-5 and then took a two-point lead.

The lead changed to and fro from there as the players gave their all on the court. A lapse in judgement by Okuhara near the line gave Sindhu an 11-10 lead at the break, but no one knew what was about to come next.

The Indian, who has been aggressive on the court from the start to the finish, won 11 points in a row and outclassed her opponent without even giving a chance. A win was Sindhu’s, and it was all a matter of when, rather than how. Sindhu did it without even allowing the audience to blink for a second. Smash, smash, and smash was her mantra, and a majestic smash won her the match.  

With the win, she confirmed a medal for India, and became the first Indian shuttler to enter the final of an Olympic event, where she will face World No.1 Carolina Marin.

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