PV Sindhu stormed into the final of the women’s singles event at the 18th Asian Games after beating Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in Jakarta. The Rio Olympics silver medallist beat Yamaguchi for a third straight time in a gritty contest where Sindhu won 21-17, 15-21, 21-10. With the win, Sindhu has become the first Indian to reach the final of Asian Games in either singles or doubles.
Sindhu had beaten Yamaguchi at the World Championships in China and most recently in the team event at the Asian Games.
Sindhu started sluggishly making numerous unforced errors but recovered quickly to take control of the match. Despite Yamaguchi’s energetic game, Sindhu stood tall to weather the attack. Sindhu remained solid at the net, using a variety of stroke to force the Japanese player into errors. A long rally ensued at 20-17 but Yamaguchi sent her smash wide to put the Indian ahead.
Sindhu’s error count increased considerably in the second game while Yamaguchi also got her share of the luck of the net at crucial junctures. From a four point lead at one stage, Yamaguchi turned things around dramatically. Fittingly, an error marked the end of the second game.
In the deciding game, Sindhu reeled off four points in a row to shoot to 7-3 before taking the break with a 11-7 lead. She also won a sensational 50-shot rally to pull away 16-8. With such a big lead at hand, Sindhu finished the match in her favour with a superb smash.
Earlier, Saina Nehwal had to be content with a bronze medal after suffering a straight games defeat to Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying 17-21, 14-21. The medal ended India’s 36-year drought for a medal in the singles event at the continental tournament. Last time an Indian won a singles medal at the Asian Games was Syed Modi in men’s singles at the 1982 Games. The loss continues Nehwal’s dismal run against the World No 1 who has beaten Saina 10 straight times now.
Tzu Ying began well, racing to a 4-1 lead in the opening game. Saina changed her strategy to level the game at 8-8. But constant smashes by the Chinese Taipei shuttler on Saina’s backhand gave her mid-game interval lead by a point.
Tzu Ying then took four straight points to take a good lead and win the game.
Saina trailed from the start in the second game itself but defended well to level the game after the mid-game interval at 12-12. Tzu Ying, however, grabbed the lead back as she took full opportunity of an unforced error from Saina.
The gold medal match between PV Sindhu and Tai Tzu Ying will be played on Tuesday.
(With PTI inputs)