Despite winning the first two ties by a clean sweep, Indian women went down 2-3 to Japan in their final Group D match. Saina and Sindhu won their respective singles matches, before India’s experimentation with the doubles pairs cost them the tie, and the opportunity to finish top of their group.
Saina Nehwal started slow losing her first 3 points, but upped her game and matched her Japanese opponent blow for blow. At the water break the scores were tied at 10-10. Yet again, it was Saina who was slower out of the blocks and looked uncomfortable with Okuhara’s drop shots. The attack-mindedness of her opponent forced Saina to go defensive and not before long, she was trailing 18-15 and looked to be heading for her first game loss.
But this was when Okuhara’s errors started to pour in. Despite holding an advantage the Japanese player could not close the game off, committing error after error, and finally succumbing to Saina’s precision across the court, losing 21-18 in the first game.
The second game saw Saina come out in a far more aggressive mode, playing cross-court smashes and drop shots aplenty, forcing her opponent to make mistakes as she stormed into a comfortable 13-5 lead and never looked back. Okuhara had no reply to Saina’s deep lobs and well placed drops. With the scoreline becoming more emphatic with every point played, Okuhara lost her confidence and eventually lost the match 21-18, 21-6.
PV Sindhu was up next and she continued the brilliant start for the Indian eves with a comfortable win over Akane Yamaguchi in straight games in 36 minutes. Sindhu won the first game 21-11, before Yamaguchi stepped it up in the second game. The Japanese player held an 18-16 lead, before Sindhu took the next 5 points to win the match 21-11, 21-18.
In the doubles, there was a change in the pairings with Jwala Gutta and N. Sikki Reddy playing their first match together in the tournament. Facing Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, the Indian pair looked lost from the start, and looked at sea as their Japanese opponents raced to a 13-5 lead and went on to win the game 21-11. In the second game, it was a one way traffic again as Matsutomo and Takahashi won 21-8 to wrap up the match.
Having faced their first defeat of the tournament, Ruthvika Shivani took to court hoping to win India the tie and hoping to avoid a decider. But World #12 Sayaka Sato had other plans as she completely dominated the match winning 21-7, 21-14 in just 29 minutes, to make it India 2-2 Japan.
The deciding game was between Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito and the pairing of Ashwini Ponappa-PV Sindhu and it turned out to be a topsy-turvy affair. Sindhu-Ponnappa won the first game 21-15 with not much difficulty. But the Japanese pair were not going to give up easily, and bounced back with a 21-19 win of their own in the second, taking the match to a decider to decide the decider. After a few well-contested opening exchanges, the score was locked in at 13-13 before Matsuo-Naito raced away and went on to win the game 21-16—thus inflicting the first defeat of the tournament on the Indian eves.
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