Photo credit: Tang Shi
Last time India got a medal at the Asian Games was in 1982. Actually they got no less than five bronze medals at the Games, which were held in their own backyard, Delhi, at that time. But now history has changed.
At the Commonwealth Games in April it was an all-Indian final in women’s single as Saina Nehwal and Pusarla V. Sindhu had both qualified to the match of silver and gold. Now the Indian girls had the opportunity to get a rematch at the Asian Games as both were playing semifinals today.
Saina Nehwal started the day with a match against Tai Tzu Ying, against whom she suffered a 5-11 head-to-head statistic before today; Tai had even won the last 9 encounters between the two. And it was also the top seeded player from Chinese Taipei who started off best with a small lead in first game. At interval she was only leading by one point though.
With delicate shots the Chinese Taipei darling quickly gained a 5 point lead after the short break and Nehwal never came back after that. A long rally where Saina Nehwal hit it too long settled first game in Tai Tzu Ying’s favor; 21-17 for the top seed.
Second game started like the first. Tai got a small lead but got caught up with and only lead by one point at interval. Now Nehwal got the takeover for a moment and made it 13-12; for the first time the Indian was leading the match. Tai came back again though and brought herself to a comfortable lead at 18-14. The Indian couldn’t fight back now and Tai qualified for the final with 21-14 after 37 minutes of play. Saina Nehwal has to settle with bronze, which is by the way the first Indian medal for 36 years at the Asian Games. The second medal was to be decided in the other women’s single semifinal.
One more shot for the final
Would Pusarla V. Sindhu also have to settle with bronze or would she make it to the final? Once again the tall Indian played one of the longest matches of the day as she and Akane Yamaguchi struggled for 70 minutes before they had found a winner.
Sindhu had a 7-4 head-to-head lead against the Japanese before the match and it was also the Indian who had the best start today. After leading 11-8 at interval in first game she didn’t leave Yamaguchi many chances to come back. Sindhu won first game 21-17.
Akane Yamaguchi made several unforced errors in second game and was down 6-10 before she finally made a great comeback and brought herself to a two point lead with six consecutive points. Everything was turned around now. Now it was Sindhu who wasn’t left many chances to come back and the Japanese took second game 21-15.
In third decisive game Pusarla V. Sindhu was back on top again. Yamaguchi’s continued unforced errors showed very costly and she had to accept an 11-7 lead for the Indian at interval. And Sindhu only built on to her lead, making it 14-8 and 16-8. One match point proved enough to close the match 21-10 and Pusarla V. Sindhu qualified for yet another great final in less than a month. India will at least get silver but Sindhu is ready to fight for gold tomorrow against Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying.
Tai Tzu Ying, Chinese Taipei vs. Saina Nehwal, India 21-17 21-14 (37 min)
Pusarla V. Sindhu, India vs. Akane Yamaguchi, Japan 21-17 15-21 21-10 (70 min)