PV Sindhu, Sai Praneeth enter Japan Open quarters (Image Credit: Twitter)
On Thursday, India's Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu moved into the quarterfinals of Japan Open badminton tournament after registering a tough win against star Japenese sensation. The fifth seed Sindhu had to toil hard in an hour-long battle to get the better of unseeded Japanese Aya Ohori 11-21 21-10 21-13 in a second round women's singles match. Statistically, no Indian has ever won a Japan Open title, and if Sindhu manages to win the next three games, she will become the first Indian to get hands on the coveted title.
Sindhu will next face the winner of the match between China's Chen Xiao Xin and fourth seeded Japanese Akane Yamaguchi, to whom she lost in the final of the Indonesia Open last week. Sai Praneeth will face Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto in the men's singles last-eight round.
In the match between Sindhu and Ohori, the Rio Olympics silver medallist Indian shuttler was slow to get off the blocks as the local girl came out on top in the early exchanges to race to a 5-1 and then 11-5 lead at the break.
Sindhu took it easy in the first game and it worked in Ohori's favour as the Indian committed a lot of unforced errors.
An error-prone Sindhu never looked in the contest initially as she kept hitting the net or the shuttle landed outside the court, enabling Ohori to pocket the first game comfortably.
In the second game too, Sindhu struggled initially before finding her bearings. Trailing 0-2, the Indian made a great comeback to draw level and then took the lead for the first time in the contest.
Once she managed to take a 3-2 lead, there was no looking back for Sindhu as she kept on extending her domination to grab the second game, roaring back into the contest in style.
Sindhu continued in the same vein in the decider and surged ahead 3-1 and then 8-4 before Ohori clinched four straight points to level the scores at 8 apiece. But Sindhu lifted her game and won six consecutive points to take a 14-8 lead. World No. 23 Praneeth, on the other hand, had a relatively easy outing against higher-ranked Tsuneyama (17th).
There was hardly anything to differentiate the two shuttlers as they fought hard for the first 13 points before Praneeth took the game away from his opponent with superior on-court display.
Praneeth carried on the confidence in the next game and raced to a 4-0 lead before the Japanese mounted a fightback to level the scores. Thereafter, it was a dog fight between the two shuttlers till 16 points before Tsuneyama lost his concentration and Praneeth took full advantage of the opportunity, pocketing five straight points to seal it in his favour.