India’s PV Sindhu dug deep into her reserves as she outlasted Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun in three games on Saturday to set up a repeat of the Rio Olympics final clash against Spaniard Carolina Marin in the India Open World Super Series badminton.
Sindhu, the world No 5, weathered a fightback from Sung, the world No 4, before winning 21-14 18-21 21-14 to the cheers of a packed audience at the Siri Fort auditorium.
If emotion was a key content of the Rio silver medallist’s victory over compatriot Saina Nehwal in the quarterfinals on Friday, she was pushed by her determined Korean rival that asked questions of her tactics, fitness and mental strength.
‘’It was a long match, I was prepared both mentally and physically. I knew there will be long rallies and Sung will not give points easily. With that mindset, I entered the court,’’ SIndhu said after coming through the energy-sapping contest.
Sung specialises in forcing long rallies, and on Saturday she showed she was much more than that as she didn’t give an inch. The long rallies, in fact, drained both the players.
Despite trailing, Sung always came back in the match. It put added pressure on the tall Indian shuttler. Sindhu clinched the first game, but her Korean rival fought back to win the second.
In the decider, Sindhu took an early lead but still had to dig deep into her reserves to halt Sung. The Korean, in fact, was trailing by six points, but narrowed the gap.
“Self belief helped me get out of the tricky situation to remain in contention for the title,” Sindhu told reporters.
On facing Marin, Sindhu said: “It will be a good match as both of us know each other’s strong and weak points. But Sunday’s final will be different. I will chalk out the strategy to win the final too,’’ the 21-year-old Indian said.
Sindhu and Marin have met twice following the Indian’s Rio Olympics heartbreak. The Spaniard won in the Premier Badminton League while Sindhu won at the year-ending Dubai Superseries finals in December.
Marin, who took the court before Sindhu did, had it much easier, defeating Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi 21-16, 21-14.
The Spaniard said she won’t watch Sindhu’s game, while saying: “All I can say is that the final will be interesting. Will work out my strategy but will not reveal it.”
Marin didn’t have much work to do. Though the Japanese is known for her fighting qualities, her strokes weren’t precise. Yamaguchi led at times, but that didn’t have much effect on the Olympic champion. Asked about her trailing in the match, the Spaniard said: “It doesn’t matter who takes the lead, but what matters is who wins the contest.”
In the men’s semifinal, it was mixed luck for the Denmark team. Chou Tien-chen of Chinese Taipei beat Anders Antonsen of Denmark 21-17, 21- 14 to set up a title clash with Dane Viktor Axelsen, who defeated NG Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong 21-12, 21-13.
Viktor said it was a tough match and one had to play at a good level to win. “There was no scope of error today. I tried to control the game, to make fewer mistakes. Perhaps it helped to have an edge over my rival and ultimately win the match.”