Defending champion P V Sindhu stood just one step away from retaining her title after defeating Thailand's Ratchanok Inthanon in a lop-sided semifinal at the USD 350,000 India Open Super 500 tournament on Saturday. Sindhu dished out an aggressive game to outwit world No 3 Ratchanok 21-13 21-15 in the second semifinal which ended an hour before midnight at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in Delhi.
The Olympic silver medallist will face World No 11 American Beiwen Zhang in the finals on Sunday. Indian mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy, who had reached the semifinals of the Japan Open last year, went down 16-21 19-21 against the fifth-seeded Danish pair of Mathias Christiansen and Christinna Pedersen in a semifinal match, which saw the Indian duo winning four video referrals.
Mathias and Christina had combined at the Denmark Open for the first time and it is their third finals of a major event after having finished runners-up at China Open Super Series Premier and Hong Kong Open Super Series last year.
Disappointed to end on the losing side, Pranaav said: We are not satisfied with the performance today. We want to finish at the podium but overall it was a good tournament. We will carry the momentum in the next tournaments.
We would be playing at ABC next week but as a pair, our next tournaments would be German Open and All England Championship, added Sikki, one half of the eighth-seeded Indian combo.
Asked about the video referrals, Sikki said: I could see the shuttle clearly. Good that it was a TV court so it helped or else we would have lost those points.
In the much-awaited semifinal, Sindhu engaged her rival in fast-paced rallies, producing some acute-angled returns and better reach to dominate the proceedings. It seemed like a lopsided affair as Sindhu soon grabbed an 11-3 advantage at the lemon break after reeling off 10 straight points from 1-3.
Ratchanok seemed to struggle with her returns as most of her shots went wide and long or ended up at the net. Sindhu, however, looked sharp and entered the break after pushing the shuttle at the back of the court.
Ratchanok tried to make a comeback and won a few points to make it 8-14 but Sindhu started dominating the rallies again to move to 16-9. At 12-18, Ratchanok found the net twice to hand over eight-game points to Sindhu.
The Thai girl saved one before she again netted her return to hand the first game to the Indian. In the second game, the duo couldn't be separated in the first 12 points as they moved neck-and-neck till 6-6 before Sindhu moved ahead using her drops and powerful smash and also aided by Ratchanok's miscued strokes to lead 11-7.
After the interval, Ratchanok narrowed the deficit to 10 -12 and then 11-13 but Sindhu seemed always a step ahead. She anticipated the shots well and soon surged to 16-13 when Ratchanok went wide again.
Ratchanok continued to struggle with her returns and in the end, it was a tight net return by Sindhu which took her to five match point and she converted it when the Thai again went long.
Among others, world no 11 American Beiwen Zhang entered the finals after edging out Hong Kongs sixth-seeded Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong 14-21 21-12 21-19 in the first women's singles semifinals.
All England Championships finalist Shi Yuqi of China set up an exciting men's singles summit clash with world no 7 Taiwanese Chou Tien Chen, who had also reached the finals last year at India Open Super Series.
In the first semifinals, third seed Chen notched up a hard-fought 23-21 21-16 win over Chinas Qiao Bin, who is a winner of 2016 Korea Open. Yuqi then survived a tough battle against Iskandar Zulkarnain, prevailing 18-21 21-10 21-19 over the Malaysian qualifier in a pulsating contest.
Olympic silver medallists and top seeds Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen were stunned by third seeds Indonesian pair of Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu 21-14 19 -21 21-18 early in the day.
It was an exciting match as Pranaav and Sikki took on the fast-rising pair of Mathias and Christinna. The Danish combo zoomed to an 8-3 lead but the Indian duo narrowed the deficit to 9-11 at the breather.
After the interval, Sikkis return found their rivals napping as they clawed back at 12-12. However, Mathias and Christinna managed to move to a 19-15 lead before sealing the opening game when Pranaavs return went to the net.
Both the pairs started the second game on an even knell as they split the initial 10 points before Mathias and Christinna entered the break at 11-8 after Mathais produced a tap at the net. The Indian pair kept breathing down their rivals neck, moving 10-12 and 12-13 before Sikki unleashed a smash to level par. Mathais and Christinna moved ahead again before India won a video referral to make it 15-15.
They moved together till 18-18 before Pranaav made a service error and then his return got buried at the net as the Danish duo had two match points. Mathais and Christinna hit out next before Pranaav again sent the shuttle out to end their campaign.
(With PTI Inputs)