Showing why she is reckoned to be the best prospect amongst Indias next generation of shuttlers,PV Sindhu took a game off World No.7 Yanjiao Jiang of China before going down 21-18 12-21 18-21 in just under an hour. Playing her first Super Series quarterfinal,she made the Chinese work for her points before the gap in experience played out.
Like the two top-20 opponents Sindhu played in her previous matches,Jiang too seemed unsure of how to deal with the largely unfamiliar 16-year-old. The scoreline after the first game reflected that. Sindhu flew to a 7-2 lead by capitalising on her opponents cautious aerial strategy. But where Sindhus previous opponents faltered,the Chinese adapted to the challenge.
Despite conceding early advantage,she realised that while the Indian was strong on the rally,she was not picking her net play. The next game was,for the most part,one-way traffic as Jiang varied her pace and kept dropping the shuttle in the front of the court. And while Sindhu still managed to retrieve the shuttle on her playing side,the point was lost when she was wrong footed on her left.
The comfortable victory in the second game put enough momentum behind Jiang and she never trailed for the remainder of the match. Though Jiang produced a string of unforced errors to allow Sindhu to close the gap from 10-15 to 15-17,there was no alarming threat from the young Indian in the final game.
But despite the defeat there was no disgrace and coach P Gopichand was full of praise. It was an exceptional performance from Sindhu. This is the highest level and the way she has played against a couple of top-20 players in the tournament,it was amazing, Gopichand said. I was confident of her performance because I know her potential but she was playing a much higher-ranked player and even though she has lost,there are a lot of positives to take. She needs sustained exposure and motivation, he added.
There was disappointment for the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa,who took a game off Japanese World No. 6 pair of Miyuki Maeda and Satoko Suetsuna before faltering 21-19 13-21 21-14. But because of their early loss here last year,Ponnappa and Gutta have not had to defend many points,and their quarterfinal effort should see them make the cut for London.
The duo came out strongly in the first game with Jwala setting up points from the front and Ponnappa hitting the big shots from the back. Trailing 15-16,they won five straight points to take the first set and raise hopes of an upset.
Things began to unravel in the second game as cohesion gave way to confusion. On more than one occasion the two ended up clashing racquets or,more embarrassingly,rooted as the shuttle landed between them. Thats what happened in the decider with the score at 19-13,giving the Japanese match point. While that was saved,another misunderstanding resulted in an unanswered smash to give the Japanese victory.