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World Championship: Sindhu knocks out defending champ to enter semis; Saina out

Last updated on: August 03, 2018 23:10 IST

PV Sindhu

IMAGE: PV Sindhu celebrates. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Star Indian shuttler P V Sindhu avenged her heart-breaking summit clash defeat against Nozomi Okuhara last year as she produced a dominant display to beat her Japanese rival in straight games to storm into the semi-finals of the World Championships in Nanjing, China, on Friday.

 Sindhu defeated Okuhara 21-17, 21-19 in a 58-minute quarter-final to be assured of a medal in the showpiece event. She faces World No. 2 and another Japanese Akane Yamaguchi in the semi-finals on Saturday in her bid to reach her second straight final.

Yamaguchi had defeated Sindhu in the final of Dubai Superseries Finals last year.

This will be Sindhu's fourth medal from the World Championships as she has already won two bronze and a silver.

Sindhu had lost to Okuhara by a 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 margin in the final last year but on Friday, it was the Indian who got the upper hand.

In both the games, Okuhara led initially but Sindhu was able to come back to take the honours. The Rio Olympics silver medallist Indian dished out her wide array of tricks in her armoury -- the angled strokes, flat as well as steep smashes, drop shots, net placement and strokes to the deep court of her rival.

The win by Sindhu meant that the head-to-head record between the two is now levelled at 6-6.

After the World Championships final last year, they had played five times against each other, including Friday’s match, and Sindhu have won three of them as against two by Okuhara.

Sindhu had lost to Okuhara in the final of the Thailand Open just prior to this tournament.

In the first game, Okuhara took an early 6-2 lead as she executed a brilliant cross-court half-smash, leaving Sindhu completely stranded.

Sindhu came back strongly as she got behind the shuttle early and did not give Okuhara time to react and sent the shuttle from her front court to Okuhara's back. She clawed her way back to 5-7 and after Okuhara hit the net, the score was tied at 8-8.

Another error of judgment from Okuhara gave Sindhu the lead for the first time and then she extended it to 10-8 before going to the break 11-10.

The Indian maintained the lead at 14-12 with a superb down-the-line smash. Okuhara hit the net twice and it was 17-15 for Sindhu. Then following a 35-shot rally which ended with a smash down the line, Sindhu was 19-15 up and reached game point with a drop shot after a 30-shot rally.        

Okuhar came back to be at 17-20 but Sindhu pocketed the first game with a superb net placement.

Okuhara took an early 4-0 lead in the second game. Sindhu produced an exquisite stroke, a flat backhand onto Okuhara's deep corner, but she trailed 2-5. Sindhu then gave away some easy points to Okuhara and trailed 3-9.

Okuhara took an 11-8 lead at break but Sindhu came back to level at 11-11 with three straight points  as she mixed up her strokes well.

It was a tight affair as both the players gave nothing away. The score was level at 16-16 but from then onwards Sindhu stepped on the gas to grab the second game and win the match.

Sindhu is now the only Indian left in the fray.

Saina Nehwal

IMAGE: Saina Nehwal in action. Photograph: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Earlier, Saina Nehwal's impressive run came to a disappointing end at the World Championships as she suffered a straight-game loss to two-time champion Carolina Marin.

It turned out to be a lop-sided contest between the 2015 edition finalists as reigning Olympic champion Marin once again produced her 'A' game on the big occasion to complete an emphatic 21-6, 21-11 victory.

Mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy also couldn't cross the quarterfinal hurdle, losing 17-21, 10-21 to top seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong of China.

A 5-4 head-to-head count meant little as Marin dismantled Saina with consummate ease. The Spaniard stamped her authority on the match, parading the court and screaming her heart out after winning every point.

"Her movement was very quick today. She was moving so fast and covering the court very quickly. The kind of shots that she played, it seemed like she was suddenly very fast. Also I had a late match yesterday so to face someone so quick was difficult. I didn't understand what to do, she never gave me a chance to play my game," Saina told reporters.

Marin said: "I'm doing well since first day. I was in control today. I'm the fastest in the world, it is my strength and I have to keep doing it. I am happy to reach the semifinal. The favouite player (Tai Tzu Ying) to win the tournament lost today, so ll try to give best tomorrow against China's He Bingjiao."

Marin played a perfect game to bamboozle Saina in the opening game. The left handed shuttler took just 12 minutes to race away with the game after earning 14 game points when Saina failed to retrieve a shot. The Spaniard closed it with a smash from close to the net.

Saina showed better fight in the early stages of the second game but Marin managed an 11-8 advantage at the break. The Spaniard stifled Saina with her stroke play and placement to surge ahead.

Marin gained 10 match points when Saina found the net and the Spaniard closed the match when the Indian went long again.