Sindhu enters All England semis after thrilling win over Okuhara
Birmingham: Olympic silver medallist shuttler PV Sindhu produced a top-notched performance to eke out a thrilling three-game victory over 2016 champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan to progress to her maiden semifinal at the $1000,000 All England Championship here on Friday.
Indian shuttler HS Prannoy progressed to the quarterfinals but title contender Kidambi Srikanth crashed out after suffering a narrow defeat to China's Huang Yuxiang.
The unseeded Prannoy, who came into the tournament after recovering from foot warts, outwitted former world no 3 and 2014 world championship bronze medallist Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia 21-10, 21-19 in a pre-quarterfinal match.
The world no 3 had defeated Yuxiang, ranked 42, to claim the 2016 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold title but Srikanth failed to see off the unseeded Chinese at the Arena Birmingham, losing 11-21, 21-15, 20-22 in a 52 minute battle.
The quarterfinal clash lived up to its billing as Sindhu and Okuhara strained every sinew to dish out yet another nail-biting contest at the Arena Birmingham.
It boiled down to finding the right balance of aggression and patience and Sindhu ensured that she had the last laugh as she outwitted Okuhara 20-22, 21-18, 21-18 in a battle that lasted an hour and 24 minutes here.
With this victory, Sindhu registered her fifth win over the Nagano-born World No 6 Japanese, who robbed her of a World Championship gold at Glasgow after a 110 minute marathon battle which went down in history as one of the greatest.
Seventh seeded Okuhara used long tosses and clears and cross court drops to make Sindhu run around the court. Sindhu was equally up to the task and the result was that the duo split the initial eight points.
Sindhu gained a 6-4 lead briefly after an unsuccessful referral by Okuhara. However, a bad judgement at the baseline by Sindhu saw the score levelled. The Indian again grabbed the slender two point lead when her opponent hit wide twice.
But a couple of body smashes helped Okuhara to claw back at 8-8. After a few more nail-biting rallies, Sindhu sent one to the net to give a slender 11-10 lead to Okuhara at the first break.
Okuhara showed immaculate defence to maintain her one point advantage at 12-11 when she pushed one at the back after Sindhu responded with a barrage of smashes. A towering smash and soft drop near the court gave Sindhu the lead, which swelled after Okuhara served at the net and sent one wide.
However, it was even stevens once again when a stretched Sindhu sent one to net and Okuhara then unleashed a smash on the Indians forehand.
The duo moved neck and neck from 16-16 to 19-19. Okuhara then sent one over the back line to hand over a game point to Sindhu, whose return got buried at the net after breaking the strings of her racquet as it was 20-20.
Sindhu then lost two successive challenges after her and Okuhara's shots went wide as the Japanese earned the bragging rights.
was absolutely no let up in intensity after the change of sides as the duo engaged in a battle of attrition again. Sindhu managed a 3-1 lead initially but Okuhara once again clawed her way back after bulldozing the Indian with a barrage of body smashes and then went on to lead with a cross court return.
Okuhara made it 6-4 before Sindhu drew parity after the Japanese hit the net twice. The Indian unleashed an explosive cross court smash to grab the lead. Okuhara then left one at the back line but Sindhu served long next.
Sindhu had a 9-7 lead but she was called for delaying the match by the chair umpire and next she lost two points as the score got locked again. A flat return on the forecourt and then a return at the back from close to the net gave Sindhu a 11-9 lead at the breather.
However, the marginal lead evaporated instantly after the interval as Okuhara used her drops to good use. Okuhara erred with her net strokes twice and then sent one out as Sindhu enjoyed a three point lead for the first time at 14-11, which she extended to 16-13. The Japanese constructed the rallies superbly.