India Open | PV Sindhu concedes title after going down to Zhang Beiwen in three-game thriller

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India Open | PV Sindhu concedes title after going down to Zhang Beiwen in three-game thriller

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SportsCafe Desk

02/04/2018

Despite going neck-to-neck for most parts of the game, PV Sindhu failed to close the game on a winning note as Zhang Beiwen secured a 21-18, 11-21, 22-20 win to secure her first major title. Although the Indian put up a huge challenge, Zhang won the last game, much to the dismay of local fans.

Given the ruthless manner in which PV Sindhu had steamrolled all her opponents in the India Open so far, she definitely had the upper hand in the final duel. Apart from her performances, the Indian ace also enjoyed a 3-1 head-to-head record against Beiwen Zhang in previous BWF events as she entered the game as the clear favourite.

Unforced errors cost Sindhu the first game

The game started with both the shuttlers exchanging three points each. After Sindhu came from behind to make the score 3-3, Zhang was finding it difficult to cope with her offensive approach but repetitive unforced errors meant no one could take a clear lead. It was Zhang who took the initiative with a couple of smashes earning her a three-point lead at 8-5 before Sindhu fought back by upping the tempo and took a 9-8 lead herself. Even though Zhang would go on to level things at 9-9, Sindhu won the next two points, the second of which came off a Zhang error to go into the break with a two-point lead.

Sindhu was aware of Zhang’s dangerous rally games that she had used to perfections in the tournament so far and made sure she kept the pressure on her opponent. Hence, when the American tried getting back into the game quickly after the game at 11-10, the Indian ace kept pushing her back matching her step to step. The game stayed close with none of the shuttler able to cope with the other’s smashes. Two back to back smashes from Zhang, one cross court and one down the line, gave the American a two-point lead at 17-15. While Sindhu got one back, unforced errors meant that the American was just two points from taking the first game. But Sindhu was not ready to give up quite yet and two misjudgements from Zhang made it a one-point game again. However, it wasn’t meant to be as a wild Sindhu drive fell well wide before the Indian hit one wide towards the deuce court to concede the first game 21-18.

Sindhu makes a comeback capitalizing on an error-prone Zhang

The second game didn’t start any differently with Zhang sticking to her long serves and Sindhu unable impose herself on her opponent. However, back-to-back wide shots saw the Indian get back into the game to lead 3-2 in no time. The little success visibly gave Sindhu some ounce of confidence as she was seen closing down more frequently and her smashes reflected exactly that. Zhang looked to have lost the plot and was found guilty of committing too many errors at the net. Sindhu capitalized on her unsettled opponent to extend her lead to 8-2. Zhang’s biggest ploy of the evening had been to pull Sindhu forward through net plays, before smashing her way to winning the point. While it had worked in the first game, her recurring unforced errors prevented a rerun of the same as Sindhu went into the break leading 11-4. 

A timely break has often broken the poor rhythm in players, and Zhang was found working Sindhu all across the court that worked in her favour, as she reduced the margin to 12-7 in no time. Though the crowd got to saw Sindhu’s infectious aggression every now and then that won her points through smashes to keep the lead, Zhang ensured she was very much in the game with her drop shots that outfoxed Sindhu at to keep the points at 10-13. However, a mixture of her powerful smashes with Zhang’s frustrating unforced errors meant Sindhu won nine straight points to take the result beyond any doubt. Though Zhang pulled back a point, Sindhu eventually levelled the match 1-1, winning the second game 21-11.

Zhang pull off a thriller in a closely fought decider 

As has been the case with each of their previous four BWF meets, this match went to the decider, too. Sindhu started the third game on the front foot with two quick points before a more patient looking Zhang crawled back through short rallies to make it 3-3 and 4-4. The American had visibly shaken off the unforced errors by now, which cost her the last game, as she looked sharp with her smashes and net play and before Sindhu realized, Zhang was already leading 9-4. However, Sindhu pulled back four points banking on her opponent’s poor judgment and unforced errors to reduce the margin to 10-9 before Zhang went into the break with a slim two-point lead.

Sindhu’s coach was firing instructions at her during the break to prolong the rallies and it worked brilliantly as Sindhu’s won two points a row to level the scores before Zhang retook the lead due to a Sindhu misjudgement. The next few points saw both shuttlers outplaying each other in their game as the score read 14-14. The game had slowed down by now with both the players a losing a lot of steam and Zhang’s deceptive front court shots weren’t receiving the same determination from the other end, as she led the game 17-15. Though Sindhu pulled a point back, Zhang’s shots looked out of her reach now as her defence looked uncontrolled. But, she was defending champion for a reason and out of the blue, won three straight points to level things at 18-18. It was followed by a nervy few exchanges and Sindhu actually brought up match point but yet another error at the net saw the score touch 20-20, before Zhang went on to win two straight points to become the India Open champion.

Other results-

In women’s singles, the Indonesian pair of Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu defeated Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjaj of Thailand 21-18, 21-15, while Mathias Christiansen and Christina Pedersen of Denmark beat Indonesian duo Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti 21-14, 21-15 in the mixed doubles final.

In men’s singles, China’s Shi Yuqi defeated Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen 21-18, 21-14 to lift men’s singles title, while Indonesian pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo overcame the challenge of Denmark’s Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen 21-14, 21-16 to win the men’s doubles title. 

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