Nanjing: Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu continued her incredible run of form in the World Championships, earning a second successive final spot after seeing off Japan's Akane Yamaguchi at the women's singles semi-finals, here on Saturday.
World No. 3 Sindhu, who had finished runners-up at the Glasgow edition last year after losing to another Japanese Nozomi Okuhara in an epic summit showdown, notched up a superb 21-16, 24-22 win over world No. 2 Yamaguchi in a 55-minute hard-fought match.
"It was a good match overall. I hope this time it would be a better result then the last time. I have to prepare well for tomorrow, so its not yet over," Sindhu said after the match.
Sindhu entered the match with a 6-4 head-to-head record against Yamaguchi, who had defeated the Indian in big-ticket events such as All England Championship this year and Dubai Superseries Final last year.
The duo faced off twice this year with each registering a win. "We know each other's game, we play very often, we played at the All England Championship. So we needed to be patient and consistent to win. I was prepared for long matches because both Yamaguchi and Okuhara are very good players and can go on and on in the rallies," Sindhu said.
"So I had to be on the court always. In the second game when I was down, I still had hope that till the last point it wasn't over for me, so I kept trying. Had to work hard to win each point."
The 23-year-old from Hyderabad, who also won two bronze medals in 2013 and 2014, will face Olympic champion and former two-time gold medallist Carolina Marin of Spain on Sunday.
Marin had robbed Sindhu off a gold medal at the Rio Olympics after defeating the Indian in the summit clash. Overall, Marin has a 6-5 advantage over Sindhu, who had beaten the Spaniard in their last encounter at the Malaysia Open in June.
"Sunday is going to be an aggressive match. Again we know each other's game, so no easy matches, no easy points, just have to turn up and give my best," Sindhu said.
Marin, on Saturday, beat Chinese eighth seed He Bingjiao 13-21, 21-16, 21-13 to make her third World Championship final. Sindhu looked a bit nervous and took time to get into the groove, resulting in Yamaguchi racing away to a 5-0 lead.
The Indian earned the first point with a precise smash but a couple of wide strokes on both sides of the court helped the Japanese move to 6-3. At 4-8, Sindhu reeled off five straight points to grab a 9-8 lead. However, the Japanese managed to hold a slender 11-10 lead at the break after Sindhu failed to cross the net.
After the breather, Sindhu stepped up her retrieving skills and covered the court better as Yamaguchi tried to put the shuttle close to the lines and ended up committing many unforced errors. At 10-12, Sindhu rode on eight straight points to reach 18-12. However, she went out twice and also sent the shuttle long once to allow Yamaguchi make a recovery.
However, the Indian eventually grabbed four game points after capitalising on a weak return from the Japanese and converted it immediately when Yamaguchi faltered at the forecourt. Just like the opening game, Sindhu again lagged 2-6 initially in the second game, before the Indian managed to reduce the gap to 7-8.
But after Sindhu went out Yamaguchi unleashed a whipping cross court smash and one at the back court to move to the interval with a 11-7 advantage. The Japanese extended the lead to 14-9 with two precise smashes. But she went long thrice after that and Sindhu too found the net twice. It was 16-12 advantage for Yamaguchi at that point.
Sindhu then scripted an incredible recovery from 12-19, reeling off eight straight points to grab one match point....