Jakarta: PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal Sunday headed for a gold medal showdown at the Asian Games after their quarterfinal victories ensured India’s first ever women’s singles medals at the Continental event.
First it was London bronze medallist Saina, who ended a 36-year-old wait for an individual medal after locking at least a bronze following a 21-18, 21-16 win over World No.5 Ratchanok Intanon in a 42-minute quarterfinal.
Rio Games silver medallist Sindhu then fought past World No.12 Nitchaon Jindapol 21-11, 16-21, 21-14 in the other quarterfinal.
In the semifinals, Saina faces World No.1 and top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, while Sindhu will take on either China’s Chen Yufei or World No.2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.
While Sindhu ran away with the first game, Jindapol made it little tough for the Indian in the second game and thrice held the lead. Trailing 13-16, Sindhu found winners on either side of the court to make it even but Jindapol again created a four-point lead with very calculated smash shots and won the game easily to roar back into the contest.
In the decider, Sindhu trailed 4-7 with Jindapol spraying winners but the Indian won seven points in a row to give herself a four-point cushion. There was no change in script after that as Sindhu ran away with the match.
Earlier, Saina fell behind 3-8 at the beginning but found a way to beat the Thai player, whom she had beaten at the recent World Championship in Nanjing and also at the Indonesian Master at the same venue. The London Olympics bronze medallist Indian will next take on Tai Tzu Ying.
World No.3 PV Sindhu will also take on a Thai player in the last-eight as she is up against World No.12 Jindapol Nitchaon.
Though Saina looked in good nick and rhythm, unforced errors pegged her back 1-5 and 3-8 at one stage. With handy lead in pocket, Ratchanok tried to be deceptive with service but lost points. However, Saina again netted the shuttle to trail 3-9. The Indian had no option but to play aggressive and that too resulted in unforced errors, taking the first break trailing 3-11.
Ratchanok used the drop shots quite effectively on Saina’s backhand side. As Saina had to stretch to reach to the shuttle, Rathanok found easy winners on her weak returns. Saina, though found the way to make a comeback and negated the strategy by hitting deep and angled returns, reducing the deficit to 15-17. Ratchanok netted a return at 18-all and for the first time Saina led in the opening game.
The Thai hit a backhand return over the line to give Saina her first game point, which she converted when Ratchanok left a shuttle and it fell inside the line. Saina was all fired up in the second game and always had lead in hand. Though the Thai hit a few winners on the backhand side of Saina, the Indian had control over the game.
She led 16-12 and closed the match in her favour when Ratchanok hit a backhand wide and Saina found a winner on the next point.