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Sindhu passes the Yamaguchi test

P.V. Sindhu celebrates after wining against Japan's Akane Yamaguchi during their women's singles badminton quarterfinal match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.   | Photo Credit: AP

P.V. Sindhu, with searing smashes and delicate drop shots, overcame a gritty Akane Yamaguchi of Japan 21-13, 22-20 in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics at the Musashino Forest Plaza here on Friday. She will meet her long-time rival and second seed Tai Tzu Ying in the semifinals.

The Japanese, backed by the volunteers at the stadium, led 6-5 in the opening game. After a phenomenal rally that lasted 26 strokes and 33 seconds, helped the Indian pull level at 6. It was one-way traffic from there as Sindhu raced to a 16-11 lead.

Sindhu kept Yamaguchi guessing most of the time, craftily mixing smashes with drops. The Japanese targeted Sindhu's backhand, her not-so-strong side, the Indian was unperturbed and went on to clinch the first game in 23 minutes. She began the second with a 308kmph smash. To make a comparison, the fastest bullet train in Japan runs at an estimated speed of 320kmph!

Chasing a second successive Olympic medal, after her silver in Rio 2016, the Indian surged ahead 14-8. However, Yamaguchi made a superb comeback, cutting down the lead to two points (13-15).

Then came the moment of the game. The shuttle went back and forth for 63 seconds before Yamaguchi finished the point with a down-the-line smash. Both players sank to their knees in exhaustion after the exhange.

Winning that point seemed to have boosted Yamaguchi's confidence as she led 20-18. But Sindhu dug deep to save game points and won the next two to wrap up the contest.

"This was the best match of the tournament for me so far," Sindhu said after the 56-minute quarterfinal. "The second game was very crucial. Even though she was leading, I never lost hope. I was ahead 14-8 and all of a sudden she was leading 20-18. My coach was constantly saying, 'it is okay, it is not over yet... be focused and you can do it' and I did it."

Sindhu she was up for the Yamaguchi challenge. "I was prepared for the rallies. I always knew she would come back, and I was prepared for it. I needed to maintain my attack because that's my strong point. There were few errors from my side when I was hitting smashes. I am happy I closed out the match in two games," she said. 

Sindhu had beaten Yamaguchi in three games when they had last played in the quarterfinals of the All England Open in March.

Sindhu added that the free time she had during the lockdown had helped her improve. “I have worked on every single stroke, my skill and technique with my coach. We got a good amount of time due to the pandemic when the tournaments were cancelled and I utilised this period really well.”

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 5:47:45 PM |

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