Pusarla Venkata Sindhu's hopes of a maiden Super Series final appearance were dashed by fourth-seed Jiang Yanjiao when the latter recorded a hard-fought 21-10, 14-21, 21-19 win in the women's singles semi-final of the China Masters badminton championship on Saturday.
The 17-year-old Indian shuttler, ranked World No. 24 and who knocked out reigning Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui on Friday in the quarter-final, matched the Chinese opponent in almost every aspect of the game after a disappointing first game when nerves seemed to have got the better of Sindhu, who is the reigning Asian under-19 champion.
But, in the decider Sindhu's inexperience proved costly in the final moments of the contest despite a terrific showing for most of the third game.. For at 16-all, the Hyderabad girl missed a simple smash at the net and at 19-all her forehand return landed in the net to the delight of the opponent. And when Sindhu's another return also landed in the net it signalled her defeat in the exciting encounter.
The Indian shuttler lost the battle today but won the hearts of many badminton fans with her grit and determination. Probably, serving a rerminder that the Chinese have to encounter in future the twin-threat from India with Saina Nehwal already proving her mettle against them.
Sindhu, playing her first Super Series semi-final, showed great composure and temperament as the match progressed. The way she fought back after losing the first game was a reflection of her ability to black out the disappointment as she raced away to a 6-0 lead. Pep-talk by her coach Pullela Gopi Chand seemed to have done the trick Sindhu engaged the fourth-seeded opponent in long cross-court rallies and often interspersed with some delectable net dribbles. It was smart use of her reach which unsettled the more experienced opponent.
Right through the seccond game, Sindhu was a much better and more dominant player with her impeccable control over her impressive croscourt strokes.
In the first game, the Hyderabad girl started off well with the score reading 3-all before the Chinese opponent surged ahead. It was the phase when Sindhu's returns were erratic.
The young Indian shuttler was clearly surprised by the stunning ability of Yanjiao to retrieve what seemed to be big smashes. The left-handed Chinese player was smart enough not to play to the strength of Sindhu by not giving any freedom to play her big shots.