All England Open: Sindhu in semis; Prannoy bows out

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Birmingham: Ace shuttler PV Sindhu outclassed Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in a tight contest to progress to the singles semi-final of the All England Open Badminton Championship, here on Friday.

Despite being a game down, the Hyderabad shuttler rallied back to win the contest 20-22, 21-18 and 21-18, that lasted for an hour and 24 minutes. This was Sindhu’s third straight three-game match and with this win, the Rio Olympics silver medalist has now levelled the head-to-head record 5-5 against Okuhara.

Sindhu would now go up against another Japanese in the form of second seeded Akane Yamaguchi, who defeated Spain’s Carolina Marin 21-15, 21-18 in the quarter-finals.

In the men’s quarter-finals, HS Prannoy lost to world no 22 Huang Yuxiang 22-20,
16-21 and 21-23. This was the best finish for the world no 16 and the unseeded Prannoy in the tournament. Prannoy had earlier been knocked out in the second round in 2015 and 2017, while he was ousted, after losing the opening match in 2016.

The women’s singles quarter-final was pretty much evenly balanced as both Sindhu and Okuhara gave their best efforts to secure a win. Locked a 3-3 in the beginning of the first set, Sindhu went on to lead at 6-4 and 8-6 before the Japanese bounced back, gaining a slight lead (11-10) heading into the break. It was a neck-to-neck contest between the two as the lead changed hands regularly before Sindhu got a game point at 20-19. But she failed to seal the win as Okuhara got some momentum going and won the first game 22-20.

Sindhu, who now needed to win the second game to keep herself alive in the contest got off to a good start, taking a 3-1 lead before Okuhara once again bounced back to level the proceedings. But the Indian didn’t let go of this easily as a couple of big smashes once again saw her grab the lead at 8-6 and she even went into the break with a narrow lead at 11-19. Her victory in the 24-shot rally showed that she wasn’t in the mood to give up easily.

She was also helped by a few unforced errors from Okuhara’s end as Sindhu led the contest at 16-13. But the Japanese didn’t let this slip away as she won five consecutive points to take the lead at 18-16. Sindhu, nonetheless displayed her class as she held on, winning five points to clinch the win.

The third game however saw Okuhara take an early 4-1 lead but Sindhu, much like the first game, headed into the break having a slender lead at 11-10. But Okuhara came out roaring after the break as she quickly raced to a lead at 16-12. Sindhu came back to level things up at 16-16 and when things were tied at 17-17, she was handed a yellow card by the umpire for delaying the game.

This however brought the best out of the Indian and with the scoreline at 18-18, she went on to win the match and book a berth in the semis.

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