Two-time World Championship bronze medallist P.V. Sindhu stood just a win away from assuring India an elusive medal after she stunned London Games silver medallist Wang Yihan of China to enter the women’s singles semifinals at the Rio Olympics on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old Indian, who came into the match with a 2-4 head-to-head record, dished out a compact game to outmanoeuvre the more experienced Wang 22-20 21-19 in a gruelling battle lasting 54 minutes.
With the memorable win, Sindhu became the second Indian badminton player to reach an Olympic semifinal after Saina Nehwal achieved the feat four years ago. It was a battle of nerves as the duo engaged in fast-paced rallies with each trying to close out the points.
Some fierce stroke play was on display with the one having better control prevailing over the other. In the opening game which lasted 29 minutes, Wang raced to a 3-0 lead after dictating the pace of the rallies before Sindhu grabbed a couple of points. The Indian made it 5-5 after Wang hit the net. Sindhu showed some good judgement and accumulated points riding on her opponents unforced errors but Wang still entered the break with a 11-8 lead.
Sindhu, who had beaten Wang in the Denmark Open last year, grabbed three straight points to make it 11-12 but left a shuttle at the baseline next. The Indian levelled par at 13-13 when Wang hit it way wide off the court.
Sindhu tried to make Wang cover the longest distance by pushing her to the back corner and then drawing her forward to the net, earning her a few points. The Indian used her reach to play some reverse angled strokes to catch Wang off guard and grabbed the lead when Wang found the net.
At 18-18, Sindhu won a video referral to get two crucial game point advantage after once again Wang’s return buried at the net. What came next was the longest rally which ended with Wang winning the point with a forehand return at the back of the court. The Chinese then roared back when Sindhu hit the nets.
Sindhu’s cross court returns set up the next point for her and then she earned the bragging rights when Wang missed the line once again.