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Free flowing badminton was to the fore again as PV Sindhu dished out another dominant performance to drub Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 21-17, 21-17 in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open Super Series on Saturday.
Sindhu’s victory ensured a repeat of last year’s final where the Indian lost to Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei. The world No.1 defeated Ji Hyun Sung of South Korea 21-9, 18-21, 21-7 in the other last four clash.
Tai, who enjoys a 7-3 win-loss record against Sindhu, won the last year’s final in straight games and defeated Sindhu at All England and Australian Open tournaments this year.
However, the title contest between the top two seeds on Sunday is likely to be evenly-poised as Sindhu is a much improved player now while Tai had slowed down due to injuries.
Satisfied with the performance of his ward, coach Pullela Gopichand said that Sindhu played a smart game on Saturday. “It’s a good match, Sindhu is smart enough to mix her pace and defence. She is moving quite well and is in good shape today,” said Gopichand, adding that Sindhu should implement a perfect strategy against Tai in the final.
“It will be a tough match but if Sindhu sticks to the strategy she should be able to win,” he added.
Despite playing without rest in the last one and half month, Sindhu looked fresh during the semi-final against Ratchanok. Sindhu came up with a new strategy against the former world champion. Ratchanok is known for hitting powerful drives, deceptive smashes and has the knack of coming back from difficult stages.
Aware of this Sindhu took an early 9-3 lead in the first game. Even as Ratchanok is struggling to adjust to the movement of the shuttle on the court, Sindhu secured a four-point lead (11-7) by the break. Retrieving almost everything from her side, Sindhu commanded the front court with her deceptive placements. Failing to read the flight of the shuttle, Ratchanok hit as many as 10 birds outside the lines giving easy points for Sindhu. Despite trailing 13-20, Ratchanok did not give up and saved four game points before committing an error at the net.
After getting into the grove towards the end of the first game, Ratchanok started troubling Sindhu. The world No.6 Thai managed to find easy placements with her acute angled shots and started hitting the lines with precision.
But Sindhu’s defence was too good as she moved swiftly on the court and used her height to execute dipping smashes. From 6-6, she raced ahead and even started returning body smashes as well. The manner she crouched down to retrieve a smash stunned Ratchanok. Even Sindhu’s back hand returns were so fierce that Ratchanok found them too hot to handle. All these aspects helped Sindhu to move to 11-6.
But Ratchanok was in no mood to relent and closed down the gap to 13-14 at one stage. However, a couple of unforced errors and two well-timed body smashes allowed Sindhu to surge ahead to 18-14. Ratchanok reduced the margin to 16-18 when both players were involved in a delightful 24-shot rally. A couple of mistakes allowed Sindhu to move to 20-17. At this stage a line call challenged by Sindhu became successful allowing the Indian to reach to her third Super Series final in 2017.
Sindhu had already won the India Open and Korea Open Super Series titles along with the silver at the World Championships this year.