It’s no rocket science that PV Sindhu should play Tai Tzu Ying like the way she played her in Set 2 of her semifinal of the Malaysian Open. Take the early initiative and a balloon lead, and then stalk her like a persistent fly till the finishing tape. But all variables considered, it is two points in Set 3 that might point a way towards creating an opening to solve the puzzle of how to beat the world’s best player. Saturday went in valiant vain, as the Chinese Taipei opponent won 21-15, 19-21, 21-11. But there are pointers going forward.
Body language is a big piece of Sindhu’s own puzzle, but her greatest defiance against Tai Tzu comes from compulsive retrieving, which always unsteadies the talented stroke maker.
Just before her five point plateau at score 8 in the decider, Sindhu would hare around the court picking every shuttle coming her way and draw out an impish error. More of that regularly which is easier said than done will be crucial in deciders especially, given Tai Tzu remains in a hurry to wrap things up.
But what can really set the proverbial cat among pigeons is out-stroking the masterly stroke player. Briefly after pinning her to the backcourt from where she was to set off her lunge either straight or cross, Sindhu had Tai Tzu stuttering a tad when she extended for a low pickup at her forehand net and flicked it in a net-hugging curve parabola to the other end of the pole. Tai had misread it, expecting straight instead of cross. The net pick-n-flick, a last second flap of the wrist instead of toss up, won Sindhu the point and shook Tai a little. But Sindhu needed stronger followups in subsequent points to have a chance.
Perhaps, the prettiest point of the match was at 14-8. Tai Tzu attempting to bury Sindhu on her deep backhand just behind the midcourt line, first pivot-smashed with a cross backhand. When Sindhu shuffled it back still imbalanced, Tai Tzu standing at the same spot turned her body to send down a menacing forehand at the same precise point where she’d wanted the Indian pinned.
It showed the Taipese girl’s wide quiver of arrows to achieve her objective – playing a forehand and backhand stroke from same spot to achieve the exact point on her dartboard. But it also showed a predictability to the pre-conceived plot, something Sindhu can counter-plan for.
In the men’s semifinal, Srikanth couldn’t beat Japanese Kento Momota and faded off 21-13, 21-13.