JAKARTA: Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu remained in the hunt for a historic Asian Games gold medal after a tense win but Saina Nehwal settled for a bronze following her 10th straight defeat against world number one Tai Tzu Ying, here Monday.
World number three Sindhu beat Akane Yamaguchi 21-17 15-21 21-10 for her second win over the Japanese at the Asian Games, having beaten her in the team championship as well.
The energy-sapping 65-minute match featured a 50-shot rally in the decider, which Sindhu won.
World number 10 and Olympic medallist Saina played with good intensity but lost 17-21 14-21 to a superior Tzu Ying, who stood out with her court coverage and retrieving in the 32-minute contest.
Coming into this match, Saina had lost last nine matches against Tzu Ying, including three in the 2018 season.
Sindhu will now fight it out with Tzu Ying to win India’s first ever individual gold in badminton.
The Indian will have to punch above her weight as she has not managed to beat the Chinese Taipei shuttler in the last contests.
Syed Modi’s bronze in men’s singles at the 1982 Games in New Delhi was the only individual medal for India at the Asian Games.
Sindhu was sluggish at the start, making unforced errors but recovered quickly to be in control. Yamaguchi played an attacking game but the tall Sindhu had strokes to counter her rival.
Sindhu dominated the rallies and created an 11-8 lead at first break. The Indian remained solid at the net, using a variety of stroke to force the Japanese world number 2 to make errors.
A long rally ensued at 20-17 but Yamaguchi sent a smash wide to put the Indian ahead. In the second game too Sindhu remained the dominant player but unforced errors crept in and she lost the lead.
Yamaguchi pulled off a stunning point, leading at 14-12 after forcing an error from Sindhu, who kept retrieving the shuttler, using one smash after another.
Sindhu struggled to contain errors from there and lost the game by hitting a forehand wide.
The Indian reeled off four points in a row to shoot to 7-3 in the deciding game, before taking the break with an 11-7 lead. She also won a sensational 50-shot rally to pull away 16-8.
With such a big lead at hand, Sindhu finished the match in her favour with a superb smash.