Ace shuttlers Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu came up with spectacular victories but the Indian women’s team still had to be satisfied with the bronze medal after it went down fighting 2-3 to five-time champions Japan in its maiden semifinals appearance in the Uber Cup in New Delhi.
Saina and Sindhu won the first two singles to put the Indian team 2-0 ahead but they failed to win the third singles and the two doubles match to see their hopes go up in smoke at the Siri Fort Sports complex.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina gave India a positive start when she produced a dominating performance to get across world number 12 Minatsu Mitani 21-12 21-13 in a 41-minute match.
World Championship bronze winner, Sindhu, then displayed her brilliance with yet another edge-of-the seat victory over world no 13 Sayaka Takahashi 19-21 21-18 26-24 in an energy-sapping one hour and 12 minutes match to put India 2-0 ahead.
World number four pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, however, brought Japan back into the tie with a hard-fought 21-12 20-22 21-16 win over Commonwealth Games gold medallists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa.
And then PC Thulasi tried her bit before going down to 2011 All England Championship runners-up and world no 16 Eriko Hirose 14-21 15-21 in the third singles as Japan made it 2-2.
It all boiled down to Saina and Sindhu to take India through and the inexperienced doubles pair, playing only for the second time, went down 14-21 11-21 to world number five combo of Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiiwa.
Japan will now take on China in the finals on Saturday.
China beat Korea 3-0 in another semifinal clash.
Earlier, Saina dominated the proceedings from the start and led 11-6 at the interval. Things didn’t change much after the break as Saina kept engaging her rival in rallies and waited for Mitani to commit mistakes, to eventually pocket the game with a smart dribble at the net.
In the second game, Mitani managed to open up a small 6-3 lead, but Saina surged ahead with a couple of smashes to lead 9-8 and had her nose ahead at the break at 11-8.
Saina came up with a series of sharp cross-court smashes to extend the lead and finally sealed the issue rather comfortably when Mitani hit wide.
After Saina’s victory, a lot was expected from Sindhu and the teen sensation, once again, delivered in style.
In a battle of nerves, both the shuttlers struggled to control the shuttle and committed many unforced errors. While Sayaka lost more than a dozen points at the nets, Sindhu erred in her judgement of the shuttle and gave away points when she continued…