On Thursday,India No. 1 Saina Nehwal had three match points against Yui Hashimoto but let the Japanese player off the hook and walk away with the second-round match. In the quarterfinal,PV Sindhu almost faltered similarly,but recovered to dismantle Hashimoto’s challenge in straight games 21-16 21-16 and advance to the semi-finals of the India Open Super Series.
Hashimoto started the match with several unforced errors and Sindhu quickly pulled away to an 11-5 lead. The Indian was stronger in every aspect of the game and made the Japanese run across the court with soft pushes complemented with perfectly placed deep clearances forcing Hashimoto to make errors. The massive height advantage helped Sindhu pick the shuttle early,and when the opportunity presented itself,smashes would land with intent. The lead soon read 19-7,which was when Hashimoto produced a stirring fightback.
What made the difference was simply that the Japanese slowed things down and worked on the rallies. In sight of an easy first game,Sindhu looked to finish points off quickly and paid the penalty with a bunch of errors. A backhand into the net made it nine points in a row for the Japanese. At 19-16,there was more than a hint of queasiness among the crowd.
Not apparently in the 17-year-old on the court itself. While Sindhu would admit later that she had lost matches she was leading before earlier this year,against the same opponent,she had held a 14-5 lead in the first game before losing 23-21 and subsequently the match there was never any nervousness this time around. I wasn’t overconfident. But when she was winning points,I was patient and I knew it was the matter of just one break, said Sindhu.
That break eventually came when Hashimoto pushed a shuttle into the net and for all of Sindhu’s confidence,there was a yell of relief at that point. A powerful drive induced an error from the Japanese and the game was hers. Hashimoto’s momentum was broken and while the Japanese held on till 14-all,she never looked the same player. Sindhu kept pulling ahead. A cross-court drop gave her a match point and she duly converted to make only her second Super Series final.
To reach her maiden final,Sindhu will have to beat Inthanon Ratchanok. At 18 the Thai is a year older than her, and with two Super Series finals,including at the 2013 All England,under her belt,is already counted as among the best players in the world.
Sindhu has never played the Thai girl,and while Ratchanok with her multitude of strokes is a completely different challenge from the rallying Japanese and the two tall Chinese whom she has beaten,the Indian should have some idea of how to succeed against her.
Ratchanok was pushed hard in her own quarterfinal match against Sindhu’s sparring partner Arundhati Pantwane before eventually winning 14-21 21-7 21-16. It was the second time in consecutive matches that Pantwane,ranked 92 in the world,had taken a game against the Thai. I didn’t want her to settle into a position where she could dictate strokes. She is very strong at the net,so I wanted to keep her moving away from there. All I wanted to do was stay in the game and avoid silly mistakes. When I was consistent,she would get frustrated and make the error. She has a lot of strokes but if you keep pushing her hard enough and stay in the point,she will make the mistake eventually, she said.