India’s PV Sindhu will play for the bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics badminton women’s singles after a 21-18, 21-12 loss in the semi-finals to world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei.
PV Sindhu was ahead for the first quarter of the match but Tai’s mind-boggling variety of deception and skills gave her a straight-games victory in 40 minutes, extending her head-to-head lead against the Indian to 14-5.
The No. 6 seed PV Sindhu came out dominating with her combination of attack and control even as No. 2 seed Tai Tzu-ying was yet to find much rhythm.
Even when she sent a crosscourt wide at 8-4, PV Sindhu looked back at her coach, smiled and nodded, knowing she was on the right track, having hoodwinked the advancing Tai Tzu-ying and erred only marginally in execution.
Authoritatively pushing Tai Tzu-ying deep into the backhand corner, the 26-year old PV Sindhu drew a shuttle that sailed wide to go into the first break 11-8. However, 27-year old Tai Tzu-ying clawed back with three straight points after the breather to level at 11-11.
PV Sindhu edged ahead at 16-14 after Tai Tzu-ying sent a down-the-line smash just wide, but Tai immediately erased the advantage with a deceptive drop from the deep and a sharply-angled crosscourt slice.
Even as the game stretched taut towards its conclusion, Tai Tzu-ying stepped it up further, hitting a backhand from behind her shoulders with so much intensity from the deep it upturned the balance of a rally.
PV Sindhu was now scrambling to send back shuttles, twice staying in a point she seemed to have lost only for Tai to take it on the third attempt. A down-the-line smash into the backhand corner gave Tai the first game 21-18.
Tai’s famed drop started to tell early in the second game; three successive ones plummeting late, almost kissing the net, and keeping PV Sindhu on her toes before another of those sharp-angled finishes at the net in the opposite direction.
PV Sindhu tried countering with her power, but began to send the smashes and crosses wide to trail 7-11 in the break.
Tai was now in absolute command. Others had tried pinning PV Sindhu to the backhand corner and failed in this Tokyo Olympics, but Tai pulled it off nonchalantly now.
A blur of incredible angles, smashes from awkward positions and last-instant deceptions hastened the end as Tai finished the match 21-12.
PV Sindhu will face China’s No. 8 seed He Bingjiao in the bronze medal match at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza on Sunday, while Tai will clash with top seed Chen Yu Fei in the gold medal match.