Rising shuttler P V Sindhu on Friday created history by becoming the first Indian woman singles player to ensure a medal at the World Badminton Championships, while a podium finish remained elusive for Saina Nehwal as she suffered a straight-game defeat. (Highlights from the match)
Before Sindhu, Prakash Padukone won a medal in the World Championships way back in 1983 when he bagged a bronze in the men 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 at London in 2011. (Hope Sindhu does well in semis, says Pullela Gopichand)
Playing in her maiden World Championships, 18-year-old Sindhu, seeded 10th, scored an upset win over local favourite Shixian Wang to enter the semifinals here. The Indian took just 55 minutes to get the better of her World No. 8 and seventh seeded Chinese opponent 21-18 21-17.
On a day when much touted Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap lost out their quarter-final matches, Sindhu came out as the lone bright spot for India. She will now face the Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon who beat Spain's Carolina Marin 21-18, 20-22, 21-15 in the quarters. In the only encounter ever, between Intanon and Sindhu earlier this year at the Indian Open, the Thai girl won comfortably beating the Indian 21-12, 21-6.
The London Olympics bronze-medallist and a quarterfinalist in the last two editions as well, Saina was erratic and could not hold her nerves as she went down rather tamely 21-23 9-21 in a 40-minute match against Korean Yeon Ju Bae at the Tianhe Indoor Stadium. (Parents dedicate Sindhu's win to coach Gopichand)
While Parupalli Kashyap, who was also playing at the adjacent court to Saina, played out of his skin but could not get across world number three Du Pengyu of China in the men's singles quarterfinal. His gallant fight ended with a 21-16 20-22 15-21 loss in an energy-sapping contest which lasted an hour and 15 minutes here.
Against Wang today, Sindhu relied on her smashes, besides hitting as many as 19 clear winners.
The 18-year-old Sindhu started to dominate from the word go. After initially being tied at 3-3, the Hyderabadi surged ahead to open a slight 6-3 lead.
Determined not to lose the advantage, Sindhu kept on increasing the gap to make it 13-8.
Wang, however, managed to bag four points on the trot to reduce the margin to 12-13. But Sindhu regained her composure pretty quickly to pocket three consecutive points to once again move ahead.
Wang gave Sindhu scare one more time by making it 18-19 before the Indian kept her nerves to eventually wrap it up 21-18.
In the second game also, Sindhu straightaway took a 6-2 lead before four straight points from Wang served as a warning bell to the Indian.
Tied at 6-6, Sindhu roared back with three consecutive points to move ahead yet again. And thereafter she made sure to maintain a lead of at least a point or two.
Comfortably placed at 20-16, Sindhu wasted just one match point before she capped it off in style to seal the game 21-17.
Sindhu is having a dream run at the tournament as she had stunned defending champion Yihan Wang of China in the pre-quarterfinals.
Saina, meanwhile, played an aggressive game in the opening match and opened up a 11-7 lead at the interval. Her baseline smashes got her a lot of points as the Indian was in control of the match.
However, Bae, who looked off-colour initially as she struggled with her strokes and reach, slowly narrowed down the lead and clawed back at 19-19. Saina was struggling with the drift as she lost a lot of points hitting wide. The Indian also faltered at the net.
From nowhere, Bae not only came into the contest but also exerted the pressure on the Indian and after a hard fight won the opening game when Saina's shuttle kissed the net and toppled outside the court.
Losing the opening game dented Saina's confidence as she failed to put any resistance to Bae strokes. Bae, on the other hand, was confidence personified as she played like a champion and decimated the Indian.
The left-handed Korean dominated the proceedings completely as after a 5-5 initial fight, she moved to the interval with a 11-6 lead. The Korean's strokes were powerful and drops deceptive as she reduced Saina to a bystander.
National coach Pullela Gopichand, who was also monitoring the Kashyap's match at the adjacent court, also could not lift Saina's spirits at the break as the Indian completely resigned in the final moments of the game.
Bae, on the other hand, held her nerves and wrapped up the match quickly to seal her place at the semifinals.
World number 17 Kashyap opened up a 8-5 lead but Du clawed back and moved into the break with a two-point cushion at 11-9. The Indian then grabbed four straight points to wrest the lead and though Du caught up at 13-13, Kashyap kept his nose ahead to pocket the first game.
In the second game, Du zoomed to a 7-0 lead but Kashyap played a steady game and slowly caught up with the Chinese at 16-16 and turned the tables at 19-17. The Indian also had a game point at 20-19 but Du held his nerve and roared back into the contest.
In the decider, Kashyap marched ahead with a 9-4 lead but Du caught up at 12-12 and then turned the tables as he grabbed a 15-12 lead. The Indian tried his best to claw back but Du didn't give any chance to Kashyap and sealed the match with some quick points.