18-year old Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is aiming to break new grounds for Indian badminton. The world no.12 takes on Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon in the women's singles semifinals of the World Badminton Championships in Guangzhou, China today. Already assured of a bronze medal, Sindhu aims to become the first Indian to enter the finals of the world championships. (Live updates)
No Indian man or woman has ever reached the world badminton championship summit clash.
Previously, Prakash Padukone won a medal in the world championships way back in 1983 when he bagged a bronze in the men's singles event in Copenhagen, while the women's doubles duo of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had claimed another bronze for India in the last edition of the tournament in Wembley, London in 2011.
However, Sindhu will face a stern test from another rising star on the badminton circuit, Ratchanok Intanon. The player from Thailand is the youngest-ever world junior champion and is seeded fourth in the tournament and ranked third in the world. Intanon progressed to the last-4 after beating Spain's Carolina Marin 21-18, 20-22, 21-15 in the quarters. In the only previous encounter between the duo - at the Indian Open earlier this year - Intanon thrashed Sindhu 21-12, 21-6.
Tenth seed Sindhu reached the semis after two stunning victories over two former world one's. She upset defending champion Yihan Wang of China 21-18, 23-21 to advance to the women's singles quarterfinals and then took 55 minutes to dispose of Chinese seventh seed Shixian Wang 21-18, 21-17.
India's chief coach Pullela Gopichand is confident that Sindhu can go one step further and assure herself of at least a silver medal.
"She (Sindhu) is a good player but she can improve further. She is a quick learner and I hope she will do well on Saturday," Gopichand said.
"It was a tough match (against Shixian Wang). It went neck and neck and there wasn't much to choose. There was not more than 2-3 points of difference, Sindhu was leading all the time. But it was just by a slender margin. The rallies was pretty long and Sindhu was able to attack when needed. So overall it was a good show," analysed Gopichand.
Meanwhile ten-time national singles champion and two-time Olympian Aparna Popat believes that Sindhu can claim gold at the world championships. "Sindhu, by her excellent performance, has assured India a medal. She has to win two matches to win the event and she is very capable of claiming gold," said Popat.