Playing with clinical precision, India's P.V.Sindhu outclassed world number 2 Wang Yihan of China 22-20, 21-19 to storm into the semi-finals of the Olympic badminton competition here on Tuesday.
In the semi-finals, Sindhu will face Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. A win against her will open India's Rio medal account.
When Dipa Karmarkar finished fourth in vault in the individual apparatus final of gymnastics, there was big appreciation and gratitude for that diminutive Tripura girl for standing among the world’s best.
Sindhu warded off a stiff challenge from the London Olympic Games silver medallist Wang to win the crucial quarter-final in straight games. Her win is also creditable as she was playing under tremendous expectations and pressure.
Before this match Sindhu and Wang had played each other six times, with the Chinese emerging winner four times, though the Indian had beaten her 21-18, 21-19 in their last meeting, at the Denmark Open last year.
The Indian started on a wrong note as she lost her very first service and allowed Wang to race to a 3-0 lead but after that the Indian came back strongly and service changed hands at a furious pace.
Though Wang kept up the pressure, she also committed many unforced errors, allowing Sindhu to draw parity at 5-5. The Chinese player rallied back to surge ahead 12-9 but the unruffled Indian again caught up to level at 14-14.
Sindhu and Wang were involved in long rallies and both came out with some stunning cross-court shots to make the game tantalisingly close.
The Indian took the lead for the first time at 15-14 but lost the next three points to trail 15-17. But at this stage, Sindhu displayed her nerves and came up with two low smashes to either side of Yihan to level the score at 17-17, before going up 20-18.
However, Sindhu wrapped up the first game 22-20 in 29 minutes.
Sindhu opened the second game on a positive note and led 9-4 but the sudden lapse of concentration and a few unforced errors by the Indian enabled her rival to close the gap at 9-7 who then spoiled her own chance by returning into the net.
Still, Yihan was not giving up. She fought back with some exceptional play around the net and tried to counter Sindhu's pressure. However, all her tactics failed to browbeat the Indian.
The Indian raced to 18-13 but still Wang was not in a mood to surrender. Sindhu’s forehand shot was wide off the court and the Chinese seized the chance by reeling out four points to draw level for the first time in 34 points.
After that Wang took the lead for the first time in the 19-18 and it looked like the match was heading into a third game. But at this crucial juncture, Yihan faltered as Sindhu’s swift return surprised her (19-19).
Sindhu then did not prolong the contest and wrapped up the game, match and a place in the semis by crafting two points to make it 21--19 in 24 minutes.
About the semi-finals, Sindhu said, "All I can say is that I'll give my best. I hope there's more to come."
"It was tough today, against the world no.2. She played well in both games, especially the second to tie the scores at 18-18," she said.
Sindhu admitted that having played against Wang earlier did help her "I knew Wang likes to play long rallies and so I was ready for that."