Dubai, Dec 18: Indian star shuttler P.V. Sindhu lost to Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the women’s singles final of the season-ending BWF World Superseries Finals here on Sunday.
Rio Olympics silver medallist Sindhu lost a hard-fought battle 21-15, 12-21, 19-21 in an hour and 34 minutes to world No.2 Yamaguchi at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
With this win, the 20-year-old Japanese improved her head-to-head record against Sindhu to 3-5.
Sindhu came into the match on the back of four consecutive wins, including a 21-9, 21-13 dominating victory over Yamaguchi. The way Sindhu ran away with the first game with a 21-15 triumph, it seemed to be easy for the three-time World Championships medallist.
Sindhu utilised her wide reach to good effect, especially in cross-court situations. Sindhu showed glimpses of her mistakes in defensive situations in the first game as well but her persistent strokeplay enabled her to get a sparkling start.
In the second game, Sindhu charged ahead to 4-0 but Yamaguchi fought back. Her quick game put pressure on Sindhu which resulted in the latter committing multiple errors.
Yamaguchi equalised at the eight-point mark and there was no looking back for her.
Sindhu lacked concentration especially in receiving service from Yamaguchi, who didn’t give the lanky Indian space to go for the winners.
Yamaguchi was too strong to be halted by Sindhu as the former was determined to take the match to the third game. At 16-10 in favour of the Japanese, Sindhu apparently surrendered the second game, deciding to save her energy for the third and deciding game.
In the decider, Sindhu jumped to a 4-0 lead to throw the challenge to Yamaguchi — which the Japanese accepted and coolly notched up point after point to equalise at the five-point mark.
However, Sindhu improved her defensive game and looked confident. She was better in defending away from the body but struggled in facing bodyline shuttles.
However, she managed to hold a slender one-point advantage at the mid-game break. Yamaguchi overcame the deficit in a hurry. Afterwards, both of them were engaged in a see-saw battle.
Under pressure, Sindhu hit some smashes wide of the court to concede the advantage to Yamaguchi. At 19-all, Sindhu effected a slow service to which the Japanese responded with a powerful bodyline blow, and in the next one, Sindhu failed to respond to a sharp service, as Yamaguchi triumphed.
It was India’s third medal in the season-ending tournament after Saina Nehwal (2011) and the mixed doubles pair of V. Diju and Jwala Gutta (2009).
“This is really hard as I was so close to getting the title,” Sindhu, who finished runner-up in the 2017 World Championships, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
Yamaguchi said: “During the entire match I saw the trophy placed on the side of the court and I thought ‘I want this trophy, I want this’!”
“I changed my tactics and kept the shuttlecock high in the second game,” she added.
In the men’s singles final, reigning champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark overcame Malaysian veteran Lee Chong Wei 19-21, 21-19, 21-15 in an hour and 24 minutes.
The men’s doubles title went to Indonesians Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who got the better of China’s Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan 21-16, 21-15.
Japan’s Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto fought off compatriots Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota 21-16, 21-15 in the women’s doubles final.
In the mixed doubles final, Chinese world No.1 pair of Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen registered a 21-15, 22-20 victory against Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet from Hong Kong.