Badminton ace PV Sindhu entered the semi-finals of the ongoing Yonex Sunrise India Open Superseries with a hard-fought 21-16 22-20 win over compatriot Saina Nehwal. Playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi that cheered ferociously for either player, Sindhu recorded a memorable victory in straight games.
Speaking to the press after the match, Sindhu stated that she was happy with her performance on the night. She said, “Overall, it was a good match. I believed in myself and even though she (Nehwal) led through most part of the second game, I’m glad that I held my nerve.”
The 21-year-old reserved special praise for the spectators, who were understandably split between cheering for both the Indian stars. “Even before the match, I knew that there will be a huge crowd and I was trying my best to remain focused on the game. They were really supportive and I would like to thank them for their love and support,” she quipped.
“A rivalry between us (Sindhu and Nehwal) has been built up for so many years now by the fans and the media,” said Sindhu with a wide smile when asked about her rivalry with the 27-year-old Nehwal. “On the court, there is a rivalry. But we are good friends off the court,” she added.
The two biggest names in Indian badminton – Nehwal and Sindhu – faced off against each other recently in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), where it was Sindhu who won the match which was played in an 11-point game format.
On the regular circuit, Nehwal had won their most recent clash in 2014 in the final of the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold Championships.
The heart of the matter
The match was a real humdinger, as both players contested fiercely for each and every point. The first ten points were split by the two at 5-5 and it was Nehwal who made it 5-7 in her favour with a well-placed lob.
Sindhu then went on a hot streak, winning 10 out of the next 12 points to open up a 15-9 lead. Nehwal, the senior of the two, fought tooth and nail to make a comeback but lost the game 21-16 as she could not return a cross-court drop shot.
It was the bronze medalist from the 2012 Olympics who was faster out of the blocks in the second game as she won four out of the first five points, before gaining a 7-12 advantage on the scoreboard. Both shuttlers displayed great tenacity as Nehwal continued to maintain her lead with some well-placed smashes but Sindhu refused to bow down and remained within touching distance of her senior.
With the score at 16-19 in Nehwal’s favour, Sindhu equalised with a sequence of three straight points, which culminated with a massive 23-shot rally. Nehwal then proceeded to earn a game point, which she spurned by serving into the net.
The youngster knew this was her opportunity to strike and she seized it with both hands, winning the next two points and sealing the match in the process.
Sindhu, who is seeded third in the tournament, will face off against Korean Sung Ji Hyun, who she had defeated in their recent Premier Badminton League encounter. The other semi-final will feature Olympic champion Carolina Marin taking on Japanese fourth seed Akane Yamaguchi.