Young Lakshya Sen recorded another comfortable win but double Olympic medallist P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth had to work hard to enter the badminton semifinals of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Saturday.
World number 10 Sen beat Mauritius’ Julien Georges Paul 21-12 21-11 after Sindhu and Srikanth struggled past Malaysia’s Goh Wei Jin and England’s Toby Penty in women’s and men’s singles quarterfinals to stay on course for an individual CWG medal.
A former world champion, Sindhu, who had won a bronze and silver in the last two editions, registered a come-from-behind 19-21 21-14 21-18 win over Goh, ranked 60th, to enter her third successive semifinals at the CWG. World championships silver medallist Srikanth, too, was far from convincing during his 21-19 21-17 win over the left-handed Penty, ranked 54th in the world.
The 20-year-old Sen will next face Jia Heng Teh, while Srikanth will look to exact revenge on Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong, who had defeated him in the mixed team final. Sindhu, on the other hand, will have to get past Singapore’s world number 18 Jia Min Yeo to inch closer to a maiden gold. The Indian had beaten her at the 2019 French Open.
In women’s singles, young Aakarshi Kashyap’s CWG debut ended with a 10-21 7-21 defeat to Scotland’s Kristy Gilmour, a silver and bronze medallist in 2014 and 2018 editions respectively. Sindhu looked slightly shaky against Goh, whom she had defeated in two tight games in the mixed team championship final.
Goh’s attacking prowess was once again on display as she made the Indian work hard in the opening game. The 27-year-old from Hyderabad had a two-point cushion in the mid-game interval but Goh managed to turn the tables with her better display in the second half of the first game to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
A vastly experienced Sindhu, however, got back her bearing soon as the duo engaged in some superb rallies with the Indian managing to grab a three-point advantage at the break. Sindhu, ranked world number 7, extended her lead to 19-14 and soon roared back in the contest.
The decider saw some enthralling rallies with the duo moving neck-and-neck till 6-6. Sindhu managed to eke out a 8-6 lead but Goh soon reeled off three points to turn the tables. The Indian disposed off a short return from Goh to earn a slender one-point lead at the interval.
While Goh played some exceptional shots, including a body smash, Sindhu focussed on making her opponent move across the court and used her repertoire of strokes to achieve that. Sindhu tried to get into good positions to open up multiple options for her strokeplay. Soon she was leading 15-11 with Goh looking frustrated, flat on the floor.
The Indian kept a firm grip on the rallies as Goh looked tired with her returns. In the end, Sindhu grabbed three match points and converted in her second attempt, much to the joy of the Indian fans at the NEC Hall here. Egged on by the home crowd and coached by former CWG medallist Rajiv Ouseph, Penty matched Srikanth in all departments and held a four-point lead at the interval in the second game after narrowly missing the opener.
Srikanth was error-prone, especially in the first half of the match but then rode on his explosive power in his smashes to make it 17-13 in the second. He peppered his rival with a series of attacking shots, including a body smash. A couple of attacking returns on Srikanth’s forehand helped Penty stay alive before the Indian gained three match points and unleashed another follow-up return on his rival’s body to seal the contest.