Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu made a winning start to her maiden campaign at the prestigious BWF World Super Series Final, defeating higher-ranked Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in an entertaining opening women's singles Group B match in Dubai on Thursday.
Sindhu, who recently clinched the China Super Series Premier and reached the finals at Hong Kong Open, eked out a 12-21 21-8 21-15 win over World No. 8 Yamaguchi in an exciting clash which lasted little over an hour.
In the opening game, Sindhu conceded a 3-6 lead early on as she faltered with her strokes even as Yamaguchi grabbed points with her deception and riding on her rival's mistakes to go 11-5 up at the break.
World No. 10 Sindhu looked slightly impatient and it affected her performance as Yamaguchi took a 14-7 lead.
An accurate down-the-line smash by Sindhu, a mistake on the net and a baseline judgment error by the Japanese helped the Indian grab four points. Sindhu then won a video challenge to narrow Yamaguchi's lead to 14-11.
Sindhu again committed a couple of unforced errors and then was left stranded by a cross court return from the Japanese, who led 17-12.
Sindhu was visibly frustrated as she faltered at the net and then struggled with a low return as Yamaguchi raced to 20-12. The Japanese then sealed the opening game after winning a long rally when Sindhu netted with a low return.
The sting was back in Sindhu's strokes in the second game as she took an early 4-0 lead. Yamaguchi narrowed it down to 4-6 and eventually drew parity at 7-7.
However, Sindhu continued to nose ahead and entered the interval at 11-7 with a round-the-head smash which the Japanese could not put away.
Sindhu's low cross-court return near the net at 14-7 even brought a smile and accolades from her mentor and chief coach Pullela Gopichand.
The Indian next came up with a cross court smash on Yamaguchi's backhand and then played a deceptive stroke to gather two more points. She eventually grabbed 13 game point opportunity when Yamaguchi hit wide. The Japanese saved one before hitting the net to allow Sindhu make a comeback.
The decider began with a fast-paced rally which Yamaguchi should have won but she ended up hitting it wide. Sindhu tried to neutralise her rivals deception by pushing her to the mid court and came up with a power-packed return to lead 6-3.
Sindhu won another good rally with a cross-court net flick and then with Yamaguchi committing another judgmental error at the baseline, the Indian went into the break with a 11-7 advantage.
The Indian continued her march after the interval and reached 17-12 with a return which left Yamaguchi sprawling on the floor.
In the end, a sharp smash took Sindhu to 20-14 and she sealed the match when the Japanese hit long again.