Afternoon Voice

Asiad badminton: Sindhu, Saina reaches 2nd round

PV Sindhu had to dig deep to down a fighting Vu Thi Trang of Vietnam but Saina Nehwal did not break any sweat as India’ top two shuttlers advanced to the women’s singles second round at the 18th Asian Games today.

World Championship silver medallist Sindhu faced stiff resistance from world number 52 Trang before prevailing 21-10 12-21 23-21 in a tough opening round which lasted 58 minutes.

In complete contrast, Saina just walked into the second round with a crushing 21-7 21-9 win over Iran’s Soraya Aghhajiagha in just 26 minutes.

In the next round, both Sindhu and Saina play Indonesia players who will have crowd support.

Sindhu takes on Tunjung Gregoria Mariska while Saina will lock horns with Fitriani.

“I did not take it easy but that was a very good match. It was anybody’s game, each point was important. I was making too many errors. She was not leaving any shuttle. It was not allowing me to attack. There was drift here and there but we have to manage,” Sindhu said reflecting on the tough contest.

“I was playing her for the first time but I never thought it will be an easy match. She did well.”

Talking about her second match point at 21-20 when her smash was called out, Sindhu said the line judge’s call could have cost her the match.

“I thought it was right. You can’t do anything about it. I was sure it was in. If there was a challenge, I would have asked for it. I really got angry because it was a crucial point and I could have lost the match. If she had got two net chords, it was over,” he said.

“At crucial points, it (challenge) is very important,” she said when asked if video referral should have been at the Asian Games.

Saina said she had come prepared for her opponent.

“I had seen her past records. She has played some good match at series tournaments. She knows how to play against big players.”

Talking about her defeat to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhora in the team event, Saina said the 2017 world champion has always been a tough nut to crack.

“Both Carolina and Okuhora are equally tough. Carolina of course is more attacking and faster. Japanese players are always fast and in form but Okuhora is very strong and dangerous player,” Saina said.

Asked if there could be Sindhu-Saina final, Saina said her compatriot has a better chance to make it to the final.

“It’s not easy but I will try my best, she has a good chance. It’s not easy playing here. I play an Indonesian next and she will be cheered by home fans.”

In other matches, Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Ashwini Ponappa and N Sikki Reddy advanced in the women’s doubles with 21-16 21-15 win over Hong Kong’s Ng Wing Yung and Yeung Nga Ting.

Also moving to next round were CWG silver medallists Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who got the better of Hong Kong’s Yonny Chung and Chun Hei Tam 21-12 21-14 in men’s doubles.

But it was all over for Rutaparna Panda and Arathi Sunil, who lost 11-21 6-21 to Thailand’s Chayanti Chaladchalam and Phataimas Muenwong in women’s doubles.

After splitting the first two games, the third game between Sindhu and Trang turned out to be a see-saw affair in which the Indian took a mini 2-0 lead early on but her unforced errors allowed her opponent to make it 3-3.

Sindhu did set up the points but was not consistent in execution. Error in judgement in leaving the shuttles from Sindhu also benefited Trang.

The Indian lost her lead in the decider for the first time when she hit one out at 9-9, looking for a winner on the left side of the Vietnamese.

After change of ends, Sindhu showed better control over shots and cut down the unforced errors to create a four-point lead, making it 16-12 but then she lost three points in a row.

The contest headed for a nerve-wracking finish with players locked 19-19. Trang’s shot sailed over the baseline and the Indian had her first match point but she squandered it by smashing one to net.

Sindhu again had a match point at 21-20 and smashed one hard on the left of Trang but it was marginally out.

She had her third match point when Trang’s shot found the net and this time Sindhu sealed it with a smash, which her opponent could not return.