Published: Sun, March 18, 2018
Sport | By Gary Shelton

All England Championship: Yamaguchi challenge for Sindhu

All England Championship: Yamaguchi challenge for Sindhu

Sindhu achieved unprecedented success in the last couple of years but she also suffered some heart-breaking losses in the finals of 2016 Rio Olympics, 2017 World Championship, 2017 Dubai Super Series Final and India Open this year.

But on Saturday at the Arena Birmingham, Sindhu took off brilliantly, taking a 6-0 lead in the first game. I am not thinking too much about the tournament. That feeling was so strong to overcome. It was a ding-dong battle before Yamaguchi held her nerves to win an epic semifinal.

For Sindhu, it was a disappointment having started the match so strongly.

Yamaguchi's clear message that no lead was safe, as she could chip away at any point and close in. "We were bit unlucky today", Chirag said. But in the end a lucky net chord sealed the game in Yamaguchi's favour and kept her alive in the contest.

Yamaguchi has dominated the play near the net while Sindhu has had better smashes. She and Birmingham - as did most of England - had woken up watching snow flakes floating.

Of their nine previous encounters, P. V. Sindhu has won six games against Akane Yamaguchi. Astonishingly, the match was barely a minute old. However, Sindhu enjoyed a healthy 11-5 lead at the first break. I was just assuming about the next point as I was trailing, I had to remain focused on each point. Despite her reach, Sindhu needed to be footloose and balanced mid-court to anticipate the rushes to the net and then lunge to the back of the court to keep the rallies alive.

"Asked what was her strategy against Okuhara, an opponent she has played 10 times now, losing five and winning as many times". She did all that to have the upperhand straightaway. Sindhu leads 17-16.

Both players kept it tight and led each other throughout, before Nozomi stole the thunder from 20-20 to win 22-20.

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Despite being a game down, the seven-point comeback had injected Yamaguchi with a renewed drive.

Both players hit it wide in succession, 1-1. It gave spectators the thrills they came to watch, but Sindhu - who looked like she'd tear up when the score went to 18-20 from a narrow call - will have to return to grieve alone, lick these wounds by herself.

One such drop took her to 19-15.

Sindhu has reduced the gap to one point, 19-18- we were in a similar situation in the first game. Sindhu played a brilliant backhand return to took 8-3 and entered the interval with another accurate stroke at the back of the court. But for Sindhu - even as she licks her wounds from the defeat - she has to come up with a way to go that last mile.

It was a completely different Yamaguchi that turned out on court for the following two games as she engaged Sindhu in several long rallies and won a lot of them. She jumped into a 7-3 lead before conceding two negative points.

It was then that the turning point that Yamaguchi referred to arrived. Yamaguchi did try to dictate the game but Sindhu fought on gamely. Sindhu can't reach one after 51 shots. She draws level 17-17 in the opening game. With this win, Yamaguchi improved her head-to-head record 4-6 against Sindhu.

Shot of the day from Sindhu- it was diagonal cross from left to right.

Catch all the action from the match between Sindhu and Yamaguchi through our Live blog.

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