After breezing through the first game, Sindhu faced stiff resistance in the second. She saved two game points (18-20) and sealed the match with a flurry of smashes to become the first Indian shuttler to reach two Olympic semifinals.
Sindhu will face Tai Tzu-Ying of Chinese Taipei on Saturday. Trailing one game and 10-14 down, Tai made a splendid comeback to oust Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 14-21, 21-18, 21-18.
An upbeat Sindhu said there’s more work to do. “I’m happy but it’s not over yet. It’s time to go back, relax and get ready for the next match,” she told the BWF website.
Sindhu said she wasn’t nervous despite trailing in the second game. “There were some very long rallies. The second game was very important, I was leading and Akane came back — so I couldn’t relax. I wasn’t nervous even though she was at game point. My coach was saying ‘It’s okay, keep focus and you’ll get there.’ He was constantly supporting me and that got me by. I’m happy I got back in two games,” she said.
Sindhu was up 11-6 at the break in the second game. But Yamaguchi made a terrific comeback to win 10 of the next 12 points to lead 18-16. Two unforced errors allowed Sindhu to claw back, but Yamaguchi was on game point with the help of a drop and a smash. Sindhu kept her composure and won four straight points to close it out.
The match turned once Yamaguchi started engaging Sindhu in long rallies. The duo engaged in a 54-shot rally at 15-14. However, Sindhu, who looks fitter and more agile, was up to the challenge and did not allow her opponent to wear her down. China’s Chen Yufei and He Bingjiao will play the other semifinal. The losing semifinalists will play the bronze medal playoff.