In a historic first, India were assured of at least two medals in the men’s singles competition of the ongoing BWF World Badminton Championships after the seasoned Kidambi Srikanth and young Lakshya Sen entered their maiden semifinals of the marque event in Huelva on Friday. However, it was disappointment for defending champion PV Sindhu, who lost to familiar foe Tai Tzu Ying in the women’s singles quarterfinals. India are assured of at least a silver as Srikanth and Sen will face each other in the first semifinal on Saturday.
It turned out to be a historic day for Indian badminton as first Srikanth, seeded 12th in the showpiece tournament, sent Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands packing with a 21-8 21-7 win in a match that lasted just 26 minutes.
And then the unseeded Sen fought his heart out to get the better of China’s Jun Peng Zhao 21-15 15-21 22-20 in an enthralling three-game encounter lasting one hour and seven minutes The two will join the legendary Prakash Padukone (bronze in 1983) and B Sai Praneeth (bronze in 2019) as the Indian medal winners at the showpiece.
Sindhu, who lost her quarterfinal match against Tai Tzu, has won five medals in the showpiece while Saina Nehwal has two medals to her name.
The women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had also won a bronze in 2011. The world number 14 Srikanth was ahead 11-5 at the first game’s change of ends and from 14-8, he took seven straight points to pocket it in a jiffy.
The second game was no different as Srikanth completely outplayed his opponent. From 4-3, it was Srikanth all the way as he zoomed to another seven straight points. From 17-7, Sriknath pocketed another four points on the trot to win the match.
In the women’s singles, Sindhu suffered a straight-game defeat to world number one Tai Tzu of Chinese Taipei to bow out of the championships.
The top-seeded Tai Tzu beat Sindhu 21-17 21-13 in an energy-sapping match that lasted 42 minutes.
Sindhu found it difficult to match Tai Tzu’s speed, court coverage and drop shots as has been the case many times earlier though the Indian produced some fine cross-court smashes.
Sindhu, who also stumbled to many unforced errors during the match, was always playing a catch-up game. She managed to do that in the second game at one stage but lost steam later on.
The win extended the head-to-head record between the two top players to 15-5 in favour of the Chinese Taipei player.
The world number seven and double Olympic-medallist Sindhu had also lost to Tai Tzu in the Tokyo Games semifinals earlier this year.
Tai Tzu, on the other hand, avenged her defeat to Sindhu in the 2019 World Championships at the same stage.
The two players — friends off the court — were tied 2-2 early on but Tai Tzu shifted gears quickly to take a lead of 11-6 at the change of ends in the first game.
Sindhu made a recovery to narrow down the gap to 16-18 and then 17-19 with some fine cross-court smashes. But the Indian could not maintain the tempo till the end as she hit wide twice to lose the first game in 17 minutes.
The second game was more closely fought, but again Tai Tzu led 11-8 at the change of ends after Sindhu made an error in judgment.
But two brilliant smashes for which Tai Tzu had no answer saw the gap narrowing to just one point at 10-11.
Tai Tzu took the next point but Sindhu produced another cross-court smash to make it 11-12. The Chinese Taipei player then sent the shuttle wide for Sindhu to level the scores at 12-12.
The nimble-footed Tai Tzu took the next three points but then hit on the nets. An unsuccessful line call challenge saw Sindhu trail 13-16.
The Indian hit on to the net next and could not reach to a drop shot from her great rival to trail by five points at 13-18.
Sindhu continued her unforced errors as she hit wide and then missed Tai Tzu’s smash to lose the match.
In HS Prannoy, another Indian is still in the reckoning for a place in the men’s singles semifinals as he will take on Kean Yew Loh of Singapore later in the day.
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