Indian shuttler PV Sindhu has booked a berth in the finals of the women’s singles event with a straight-game victory over Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. With that, she also becomes the first Indian badminton player to enter the final of the Olympics.
Okuhara was no pushover and is the reigning All England Open champion. In the final, Sindhu will face two-time reigning world champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who beat defending champion Li Xuerui of China 21-14, 21-16.
For Sindhu, who was on a giant-killing spree after dismissing two higher-ranked opponents — Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying and World No. 2 Wang Yihan of China in the pre-quarter-final and the quarter-final respectively — Thursday’s win was an extension of her good form.
The immensely talented Hyderabadi has done a notch better than her illustrious senior, Saina Nehwal, who got the country its first medal from badminton — a bronze in London 2012.
Sindhu had a 1-3 head-to-head record against Okuhara but all that went for a toss as the Indian came out with a well-thought strategy as she engaged the Japanese in long-rallies with her angled returns and deft drops. Her height and long reach gave her a lot of advantage against the pint-sized Okuhara, who also had her right thigh strapped. Sindhu’s sharp cross-court game and half smash helped her get off to a fine start. Okuhara’s delectable drop shots, however, helped her bounce back once in a while. But Sindhu remained always in the lead in the first game.
In the second game, Sindhu again began convincingly taking a 3-0 lead before Okuhara took five straight points to preside over a 5-3 advantage. Afterwards it was a neck-and-neck contest. After the break, Sindhu turned more aggressive and played a fearless game to stun the Japanese who looked short of ideas. Sindhu kept earning points, hitting one smash after another to cruise through. As many as 10 points on the trot catapulted her to the final with a 21-10 win in the second game. Afterwards, what followed was a screaming celebration from Sindhu and her camp.