India had a mixed day at the World Badminton Championships, with 2016 Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu entering the final, while Saina Nehwal lost in the women’s singles semi-finals here on Saturday.
Fourth seed Sindhu crushed Chinese ninth seed Chen Yufei of China 21-13, 21-10 in 48 minutes in a superlative display to set-up a title clash against Japanese seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara, who defeated Indian 12th seed Saina 12-21, 21-17, 21-10 earlier in the day.
Sindhu, a two-time World Championships bronze medallist, dominated her younger opponent from the beginning, not allowing the reigning world junior champion to settle in.
Playing aggressively, Sindhu rattled 19-year-old Yufei with her barrage of attacking strokes.
In the other semi-final, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Saina lost against Okuhara as she settled for a bronze medal.
After winning the first game 21-12, Saina, who is yet to regain full fitness after her knee surgery in August 2016, and looked tired. An Okuhara’s strategy of playing long rallies tested Saina’s fitness to the core.
World Championships 2015 runner-up Saina, who had a 6-1 head-to-head record against Okuhara coming into this game, started strongly, winning the first game 21-12 as the Japanese struggled to get into her rhythm.
The 22-year-old Japanese struggled with her net play and a few erratic line judgements to trail 6-11 which became 6-15 before losing 12-21.
Okuhara got off to a flying start in the second game, taking a 4-0 lead but the 27-year-old Saina fought back and equalised at the nine-point mark.
Saina kept pace with her younger and sharper opponent but she got tired towards the end. At 17-all, Saina wasted a great chance to take the lead as she fired a smash wide right.
Then, Okuhara claimed three consecutive points as she showed more energy and agility as a tired Saina failed to stop her from dictating the rallies.
In the third game, Okuhara completely dominated and her fast-paced game didn’t allow Saina to get back into it. Saina struggled with her movements and failed to reach for Okuhara’s delectable drop shots.
Okuhara, the 2012 world junior champion, raced away to an 11-4 lead and afterwards, it was just a matter of time before the Japanese sealed the game at 21-10 and with this a place in the final.
“It was disappointing to have lost the despite being a game up. But overall I am happy that I made it to the semis after recently coming out of an injury. I gave it my best and I am pleased with that,” Saina said after the match.
Talking about how she lost the momentum during the match, Saina said, “She started to win long rallies after the first game and that was the main reason for her to make a comeback into the match.a
Okuhara became the first Japanese to reach the World Championships women’s singles final.
Sindhu, 22, and Okuhara, 22, have won three games apiece from six outings between them and in the Japanese, the Hyderabadi faces an opponent that likes to play fast-paced shuttle.
Meanwhile, men’s singles defending champion Chen Long of China was ousted by Viktor Axelsen of Denmark. The Danish third seed crushed the 2016 Olympic champion 21-9, 21-10 in 39 minutes.
In the final, Axelsen will face Chinese veteran and five-time world champion Lin Dan, who got past South Korean top seed Son Wan Ho with a 21-17, 21-14 victory in 58 minutes.
Axelsen, who won the bronze in the 2014 worlds and 2016 Rio Olympics, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency: “I am still a little out of words, I never expected to win that comfortably, I am very happy. I made little mistakes today and made very few errors.
“It was nice to get revenge from the Olympic semi-finals, I am very proud of myself.
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“My coach and I always look back at past championships to get better and improve on my game. Denmark is a small country but I am very proud that we can compete with the bigger countries. It’s a dream come true, ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of a World Championships final.”
Chen, 28, said he was under too much pressure. “I got the first points, then lost a lot of the next, and that really affected my game. In the second I managed to go ahead and that put a lot of pressure on me, but Victor played very well.
“Congratulations to Victor to getting to the final, he played the perfect game,” he added.