'I tried my best; it was just not my day. I fought until the end.'
Reigning World champion P V Sindhu's hopes of securing India's first-ever Olympic gold in badminton came crashing down as she slumped to an 18-21, 12-21 defeat against world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in the women's singles semi-finals, in Tokyo, on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Rio Games silver-medallist will now play for the bronze medal when she meets China's He Bingjiao in the third-place play-off at Musashino Forest Plaza on Sunday.
In the first semi-final, Bingjiao lost to compatriot Chen Yufei 16-21, 21-13, 12-21.
"I'm a bit sad because it's the semi-finals, but I tried my best; it was just not my day. I fought until the end," said Sindhu after the match.
"In the second game I gave away a huge lead, but still I was fighting back because you never know, it can change at any moment. It's the Olympics, you have to fight until the last point and I have done that.
"I was prepared for her skills, so I don't think that troubled me a lot. At the end of the day the level of the semi-finals is going to be really high - you can't expect easy points. I just couldn't be on the winning side," she added.
Looking ahead to her bronze medal match, Sindhu said: "It's going to be a bit sad. I need to go back and relax and prepare for tomorrow because it is not over yet. I still have a chance. I hope I can give my best. It just wasn't my day, but I'm going to try it again tomorrow."
One of the most consistent players, who claimed medals in all big-ticket events in the last five years, Sindhu was unable to counter Tai Tzu's deception with her aggressive game.
It was the Indian's 14th defeat to the second seeded Taiwan girl in 19 meetings, having also lost to her in their last three face-offs.
On Friday, Sindhu, seeded sixth, had beaten Japanese world No.5 Akane Yamaguchi in the quarter-finals.
Tai Tzu started off aggressively and tried to hurry Sindhu into playing her shots. The ploy did not work initially as the Indian chose to engage in long rallies and score at the net when she returned from the rear.
There were some exquisite rallies, but it was Sindhu who won most of them by unleashing quite a few smashes to the lines to go 7-3 up.
With Tai Tzu also committing a few unforced errors, the India was well-placed going into the break with a healthy 11-8 lead.
The diminutive Taiwan shuttler, however, then changed strategy and used her deceptive drops to claw back into the first game.
After 11-all, the scores ran neck-and-neck till 18, as both players adopted caution with aggression and deception. A cross-court drop shot gave Tzu the lead for the first time. That point sort of rattled Sindhu and Tzu snatched the initiative, scoring two game points before sealing the game with a down-the-line forehand smash.
With a game in the pocket the Taiwan girl again changed tactics and chose to toss deep and keep Sindhu guessing. She used her angled returns, followed by net drops regularly to unsettle Sindhu, who never got going with her cross-court smashes, as they fell wide.
With a 11-7 lead at the change of ends, the Taiwanese called the shots for the rest of the match, dictating terms with the toss and drop at the net to score. She allowed the Indian icon just one more point before wrapping up the contest in 41 minutes.