P V Sindhu's gallant fight ended in agony as she suffered a second successive loss to world no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei at the summit clash of the USD 400,000 Hong Kong Super Series on Sunday. Playing her fifth straight tournament, Sindhu, who had a 3-7 head-to-head record against Tai before the match, never lacked in fitness and fought throughout the match before going down 18-21 18-21 to the defending champion in a 44-minute women's singles final.
This is Sindhu's second loss in the four finals that she reached this season. She had lost to Japan's Nozomi Okuhara at the World Championship final, while clinched two titles at India and Korea this year.
In the opening game which lasted 21 minutes, Tai moved to a 3-0 lead early on before Sindhu made a good judgement at the baseline to log the first points. However, Tai unleashed her wide repertoire of strokes and varied the pace well to lead 7 -2.
Sindhu then started to dominate the rallies by using her deep clears and drew the Taiwanese close to the net. She used her reach to catch the shuttle early and placed it in difficult positions to narrow the deficit to 6-7.
A deceptive net return gave Tai a point. The Taiwanese then produced a smash on the deep backhand corner of Sindhu and moved to 10-7. Sindhu unleashed a body smash to perfection before Tai's flat straight return bamboozled the Indian.
At the break, the Taiwan had a three-point advantage.
After the breather , Tai committed a couple of unforced errors at both the flanks, while Sindhu came up with a backhand return near the net to reduce the margin to 10-13 but Tai quickly recovered to extend her domination to 16-13.
Sindhu tried to anticipate her deceptive rival and put Tai in awkward positions a few times, but she hit long or at the net to allow the Taiwanese lead 18-14.
A gritty Sindhu, however, kept breathing down her neck and soon clawed back at 18-18.
During the next rally, the string of the Sindhu's racquet broke and Tai unleashed a smash which left the Indian frustrated. Tai produced another smash on Sindhu backhand to move to the game point. She then grabbed the opening game after winning a video referral when her shuttle landed on the line.
In the second game, Sindhu was left to deal with some indecision due to the sidewise drift which gave the early advantage to Tai but the gritty Indian levelled the score at 4-4 with a superb return at her rival's forehand.
The duo moved to 7-7 before Tai hit wide and lost a referral too.
Sindhu produced an overhead backhand flick, a deceptive return at the forecourt and another smash to move to 10-7 before entering the lemon break with a two-point advantage when Tai found the net.
However, Tai dominated the proceedings after the interval, despite a fighting Sindhu trying to snap at her heels.
The Indian lost a referral and then failed to retrieve a shot at the forecourt as Tai led 12-11.
At 13-12, Sindhu was not allowed a video referral by the line judge and after that, the match slipped away from the Indian even as Tai produced a stroke on Sindhu's forehand to perfection. With the Indian failing to finish the rallies, it allowed Tai to lead 17-12.
Another weak return by Sindhu and Tai was leading 18-12. The Indian produced a cross-court smash to break the rhythm, but she again hit long.
Tai faltered at the net and then miscued a lift from the frontcourt. She then hit long as Sindhu conjured up hopes of a turnaround, moving to 16-19.
However, a long rally ensued which ended with Sindhu's lift going long and Tai earned the match point at 20-16.
Sindhu saved two match points before a perfect drop shot from Tai sealed the title for the Chinese Taipei shuttler.
(With PTI Inputs)