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Tokyo 2020: PV Sindhu triumphs over Akane Yamaguchi to enter semi-final

PV Sindhu looks like a player on a mission as she roared her way into the semi-final of the women’s singles badminton competition at the Tokyo Olympics with a stunning 21-13, 22-20 win over Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi. Sindhu is now just one more win away from ensuring a second consecutive Olympic medal, to add to the silver she had won at the 2016 Rio Games.

Sindhu required only 23 minutes to take the first game, with the India shuttler showing her supremacy with some top-notch smashes making Yamaguchi sweat. However, the match ended up being a 56-minute-long affair, with Yamaguchi staging a terrific comeback in the second game. With Sindhu leading 14-8, the Japanese shuttler narrowed the lead to 15-14 after the second game interval. However, a late revival saw Sindhu regroup and seal the game despite Yamaguchi’s spirited fightback.

The Japanese shuttler, quick on her feet with amazing court coverage, raced to an early lead in the first game with her deft shots. But Sindhu soon made a fine recovery, making her opponent toil hard for every point. Sindhu combined attack and defense and made some great calls on the line to race to a 10-7 lead.

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Yamaguchi kept relying on the drop shots but Sindhu made great use of her reach to nullify the challenge. Sindhu raced to a 14-9 lead and looked ominous, but a missed smash provided Yamaguchi a chance to make a comeback. Sindhu though didn’t let her guard down and kept her lead intact. Yamaguchi showed great defensive skills in front of a relentless attack from Sindhu, but the Indian raced to an 18-11 lead.

Yamaguchi showed great reflexes to get a point from a difficult situation in a rally but Sindhu came back strong again to take the first game 21-13.

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The second game started on an even keel with both players tied on 3-3. But a service error from Yamaguchi handed Sindhu the advantage, who then hit a great cross court smash to move ahead 5-3. The tall Indian shuttler employed the aggressive smashes and was aided by some unforced errors from Yamaguchi to move ahead 10-5.

With Sindhu leading 14-8, Yamaguchi would find a second wind after the interval, bagging five point in a row to move ahead. With the score at 15-14, Sindhu and Yamaguchi were involved in the rally of the match.

The Indian’s drop shots and backhand get her back in the game but a fiercely-determined Yamaguchi pushed her, almost forcing the Q/F into a deciding third game, as she raced ahead to 20-18. But Sindhu did well to save two game points, deuce it up and and then produced classic offensive badminton to reach her second straight semi-final at the Olympic Games.

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The reigning world champion’s loud shriek after securing the victory showed how much this campaign means to her. Sindhu’s preparations for Games had taken a huge hit due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but the Indian ace seems to be peaking at the right time.

Sindhu had stormed into the women’s singles quarterfinals after beating Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt in straight games in the Round of 16 match. She remained unbeaten in the Group Stage, defeating world No. 34 Hong Kong’s NY Cheung 21-9 21-16 to top Group J.

Sindhu had won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics after she went down to Spain’s Carolina Marin in the final in a thrilling encounter.

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Since then, the Indian shuttler has won the World Championships gold in 2019, and also won silver medals at the World Championships in 2017 and 2018. Sindhu also won the silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games and 2018 Commonwealth Games.

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