PV Sindhu fought back in the 2nd game to down compatriot Saina Nehwal 21-16, 22-20 and book a berth in the Yonex-Sunrise India Super Series badminton tournament at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi on Friday.
The third seeded Indian emerged as the lone hope for the hosts after men's singles player Sameer Verma's gallant fight against Denmark's Anders Antonsen ended in a 22-24,19-21 loss in the men's singles quarterfinals.
"I felt no pressure even when she was ahead in the second game. I had confidence in myself and when it was 20-20 in the second it was anybody's game. But I believed in myself and was confident that I could turn it around," Sindhu said after the match.
China Open champion, Sindhu will face second seeded Korean Sung Ji Hyun in the semi-finals on Saturday. Sindhu has a 6-4 record against Hyun but the Indian had lost to the Korean in their last meeting at the Dubai Super Series Finals.
The Rio Olympic silver medalist took just 19 minutes to win the opening game after taking an early lead. But Saina caught up with her soon,
taking a 7-5 lead. Sindhu used her height well to reach for the high returns and won three points in a row to race to a 8-7 lead.
She followed that with a clever, low serve to decieve Saina and log four straight points.
Sindhu was quicker on her feet and reached for everything. Saina also fought point for point, defending and covering the court well.
Saina rallied to win 2 back-to-back points with some incredible smashing. They matched each other shot-for-shot and forced each other to the net.
With 11-9, Sindhu took a 2 point advantage at the mid-game interval.
Sindhu won 12 points in a row and played accurate net shots to keep Saina reeling.
Slowly Saina caught up with the 21-year-old Sindhu but at one juncture misjudged a return and decided against playing it, only to see the shuttle fall in and trail 17-11.
The net play by both players was brilliant. Sindhu makes a smashing return to close the gap to five points (13-18) but somehow she was left chasing a brilliant Sindhu on the evening and the latter eventually closed the game with a brilliant return.
In the 2nd game, Saina took an early lead. The duo played out gripping rallis, smashing, covering the court and indulging in beautiful net-play. Saina raced to a 4-1 lead. Sindhu played a stunning jump smash to narrow the gap and go to 2-4. Saina forced Sindhu in a few errors and raced to a 6-3 lead.
Saina made Sindhu play at a few shots and another intriguing rally saw body smashes from both ends.
Saina continued to hold on to her with lovely slices to win points. Sindhu lost a challenge at one point as the shuttle had gone out.
Saina went into the mid-game interval with a 4-point advantage. Not one to give in easily, she fought back beautifully.
Post the break, Sindhu saw a mini-revival but Saina continued to surge forward with her lightening-fast reflexes and super smashes.
Another upper body smash and Saina had zoomed to a 16-12 lead.
Sindhu then came back to smash her way to 3 straight points and to touching distance at 16-15.
They matched each other, Sindhu was on Saina's tail and at one point brought out the deficit to one point after logging 3 straight points.
Under pressure, Nehwal played a shot into the net and Sindhu was level at 19-19.
Saina stuck to her favourite body smash to go up 20-19. But nerves from Saina saw her create a service error to help Sindhu go level at 20-20 and the Rio-Olympic silver-medalist wrapped up the game and the match in her favour with a smash.
Saina and Sindhu had previously met each other just once in an international competition -- at the 2014 Syed Modi International – where Saina had won in straight games.
They had played against each other in PBL early this year with Sindhu getting an upper hand. They had also faced each other in the Indian Badminton League in 2013 when Saina emerged victorious.
Earlier in the day, second seeded Korean Sung Ji Hyun edged out defending champion Ratchanok Intanon, seeded fifth, 21-16, 22-20, while fourth seeded Akane Yamaguchi staved off a challenge from former All England champion Nozomi Okuhara, seeded seventh, 21-13, 11-21, 21-18 in an all-Japanese contest.
In the men's singles, two-time runners-up Viktor Axelsen of Denmark eked out a hard-fought 19-21, 21-14, 21-16 win over Chinese Taipei's Tzu Wei Wang to reach the semi-finals.
Image: P V Sindhu
Photograph: Robertus Pudyanto/Getty Images