India’s ace badminton player and reigning world champion Pusarla Venkata Sindhu humbled Hong Kong's NY Cheung in a Group J match to make the Round of 16 at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old Indian, who had claimed a silver medal in the last edition in Rio, prevailed over world No. 34 Cheung 21-9 21-16 in a 35-minute match to top the group. This was Sindhu's sixth win over Cheung in as many meetings.
"I found my rhythm from the second game on and I finished it off. It was a fast game and I made a couple of unforced errors. I changed my tactics and got things under control. This type of test is important before a big match," Sindhu said after the match.
World No. 7 Sindhu will meet Denmark's world number 12 Mia Blichfeldt, who topped Group I. Sindhu has a 4-1 head-to-head record against Blichfeldt, whose only win against the Indian was at the Yonex Thailand Open earlier this year.
"It's not going to be an easy game. I need to recover well and come back stronger. I've played her a couple of times, every point is going to be important. She's an aggressive player so I need to be aggressive as well," Sindhu said.
The shuttler from Hyderabad, seeded sixth, had defeated Ksenia Polikarpova of Israel in her opening match.
Sindhu used her repertoire of strokes, and her ability to vary the pace troubled the Hong Kong player. Sindhu made her opponent run around the court and will then come up with perfect placements to win points.
Cheung got a few points with her deceptive cross-court returns but she committed many unforced errors to have any chance of putting pressure on the Indian in the first game.
Sindhu led 6-2 early on before galloping to 10-3. She committed a rare error at 10-3 before entering the interval at 11-5. The Indian didn't have any trouble after the resumption as she zoomed to 20-9 and pocketed the opening game when Cheung netted a return.
Cheung was looking to script a turnaround in the second game as she extended the rallies and with Sindhu too struggling to control the shuttle, the duo moved to 6-6 and 8-8.
Sindhu also made judgment errors before sending the shuttle wide again to hand over a slender one-point advantage to her opponent.
Cheung tried to put pressure on Sindhu but the Indian wriggled out with her better strokeplay which included a few straight down the line smashes.
Sindhu moved to 19-14 before grabbing six match points but she missed the lines again and netted a shot to squander two match points before sealing it with a smash.
WITH PTI INPUTS