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WATCH: Sindhu roars into Tokyo Olympics semi-final after thrilling win over World No.5

·5-min read

Reigning world champion PV Sindhu kept alive India's hopes of a first-ever Olympic gold in badminton by reaching the semifinals of the women's singles with a straight-game win over world No.5 Japanese Akane Yamaguchi. Sindhu will next face second seed Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying, who edged out Thailand's Ratchanok Inthanon 14-21, 21-18, 21-18 in another quarterfinal match.

PV Sindhu olympics
PV Sindhu of Team India celebrates after her victory against Akane Yamaguchi of Team Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu of India reacts after winning the match against Akane Yamaguchi of Japan. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu of India in action during the match against Akane Yamaguchi of Japan. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Akane Yamaguchi
Akane Yamaguchi of Japan reacts during the match against PV Sindhu of India. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Badminton - PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu of India reacts during the match against Akane Yamaguchi of Japan. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

The 26-year-old Indian, who won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, defended brilliantly and rode on her attack to outclass the fourth-seeded Yamaguchi 21-13, 22-20 in a 56-minute quarterfinal clash at the Musashino Forest Plaza.

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The 26-year-old Indian, who won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, defended brilliantly and rode on her attacking all-round game to outclass the fourth-seeded Yamaguchi 21-13 22-20 in a 56-minute quarterfinal clash at the Musashino Forest Plaza.

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The sixth seeded Indian came into the match with a 11-7 head-to-head count against the Japanese, whom she had last beaten at the All England Championship in March this year.

PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu of Team India celebrates with her coach Park Tae-sang (left) after her victory against Akane Yamaguchi of Team Japan. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Akane Yamaguchi
Akane Yamaguchi of Team Japan competes against PV Sindhu of Team India. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu hits a shot to Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in their women's singles badminton quarter-final match. (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
India's PV Sindhu at Olympics
India's PV Sindhu celebrates as she wins against Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in their women's singles badminton quarterfinal match in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images)

Yamaguchi tried to play an aggressive game but Sindhu held her ground and used her good anticipation and reach to stay ahead. The Indian brought out her attacking smashes and half smashes whenever there was a chance to put pressure on her rival.

The opening game saw Sindhu quickly erase a 2-4 deficit to level the scores at 6-6. Yamaguchi committed three back-to-back unforced errors to allow the Indian to move ahead as Sindhu entered the interval at 11-7 with a cross-court smash.

Sindhu used her forecourt well and took charge of the net. The duo played some good rallies at a good pace but Yamaguchi couldn't find an answer in the exchanges. The Japanese was also too erratic.

Sindhu eventually produced a winner near the net and grabbed the first game when Yamaguchi sent long a return to serve.

Sindhu dictated the pace and seemed in total control, starting the second game with two superb smashes for a 2-0 early lead. She kept her unforced errors to the bare minimum even as Yamaguchi committed a service error and playing against the drift, struggled to keep the shuttle in.

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A superb net dribble and a cross-court smash helped Sindhu to again take a five-point advantage at the break. However, Yamaguchi, lagging 8-13, grabbed eight of the next nine points to open up a slender one-point lead at 16-15 for the first time in the match.

The only time Yamaguchi, who is known for her retrieving skills, could drag Sindhu into an energy-sapping rally was at 15-13 when the duo had an extraordinary 54-stroke exchange. It ended with Yamaguchi sending the shuttle at the backhand of Sindhu, who was gasping for breath.

With Yamaguchi defending well, Sindhu was forced to go close to the lines. She made errors in the process as the Japanese led 18-16.

A superb net shot saw Yamaguchi grab two game points, fuelling hope of a turnaround but Sindhu responded with authority. She unleashed a straight-down-the-line smash and then set up another point with a smash and a great follow-up to make it 20-20.

Another precise half smash down the line gave her a match point and she screamed her heart out in joy after Yamaguchi found the net next.

On Thursday, Sindhu had notched up a straight-game triumph over Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt, seeded 13th, in the pre-quarterfinals.

She is the lone Indian in the fray in badminton after men's singles player B Sai Praneeth and the men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy failed to qualify for the knockout stage.

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WITH PTI INPUTS

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