Basel (Switzer-land): P.V. Sindhu stood one win away from an elusive World Championships gold after entering a third successive final but B. Sai Praneeth settled for bronze following his defeat to Kento Momota here on Saturday.
Sindhu, who had claimed successive silver in the last two editions of the prestigious tournament beside two bronze, was a picture of perfection as she outclassed World No. 3 and All England Champion Chen Yu Fei of China 21-7, 21-14 in a 40-minute semifinal.
The 24-year-old Olympic silver medallist will take on Japan’s World No. 4 Nozomi Okuhara in the summit showdown on Sunday. Two years ago, Okuhara had robbed off the Indian the title after an epic battle that went down as one of the greatest contests in badminton history.
The third seeded Okuhara outlasted former world champion Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, seeded 7th, 17-21, 21-18, 21-15 in the other semifinal.
Overall, Sindhu enjoys a slender 8-7 advantage against Okuhara in 15 career meetings. The Indian will fancy her chances of a win, having beaten the Japanese on her way to the Indonesia Open final last month.
“I was well prepared and from the start I was in the lead and then finished it off,” Sindhu said.
“In the second game, I made some unforced errors and then I was leading again and it gave me my confidence. Overall, the game went well and I hope it goes well tomorrow.”
However, Praneeth’s impressive run ended after his attacking game couldn’t dent the defence of in-form defending champion Momota, going down to the Japanese World No. 1 13-21, 8-21 in 41 minutes.
On Friday though, Praneeth achieved a rare distinction of becoming the first Indian male shuttler in 36 years to win a medal in the tournament.
Prakash Padukone was the first to win a men’s singles World Championships medal — a bronze — in the 1983 edition.
Sindhu, who came into the match with a 5-3 head-to-head record against Chen, grabbed the initiative quickly.
The Indian dished out a compact game, producing angled returns to push Chen to the corners. Sindhu retrieved well and punished any weak return from her rival to dominate the rallies.
Sindhu entered the first break with a 11-3 lead after the Chinese went wide.
Chen continued to find the going tough as she missed the lines, allowing the Indian to gather points at will.
Another weak return at the net by Chen gave Sindhu as many as 14 game points. The Indian sealed the opening game in her second attempt.