Seoul: PV Sindhu became the first Indian shuttler to win the BWF Korean Open Superseries, after yet another gruelling encounter with Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, on Sunday.
The duo had already fought-out the longest match in the final of the BWF World Championship last month, when Okuhara came out on top after a 110-minute match.
It did not last that long this time, but the match was still quite long by normal standards – 84 minutes, at the end of which, a scarred and embattled Sindhu emerged with a 22-20, 11-21, 21-18 victory.
Sindhu had gotten off to a quick start in the first game, but Okuhara, in the characteristic manner in which matches between these two have been going on, pulled back, and even ran away with an 11-9 lead by the switchover. The Japanese shuttler went on to notch up two game points, but Sindhu fought back with four straight points to clinch the first.
However, Okuhara upped her tempo in the second game, and raced into an 11-6 lead at the break. She extended that to a 10-gamepoint-lead, eventually clinching it 21-11, to take the match to a deciding game.
It was Sindhu’s time to dominate proceedings in the third game, where she raced to an 11-6 lead by the changeover. However, Okuhara was not going to let things go without a real fight till the end.
She fought back to within two points of the Hyderabad shuttler, at 13-15 and 16-18. The Match could still have gone either way, at this point. However, one particular rally seemed to have decided things in Sindhu’s favour.
The Indian shuttler went on to notch up three match points, but Okuhara fought back to save one more point, before Sindhu clinched it.
This win made her the first Indian to win the Korean Open. She also levelled up with Okuhara on their career head-to-head record, which now stands at 4-4.
Sindhu defeats Okuhara 22-20, 11-21, 21-18 to clinch the Korean Open! This is been as exciting a match as the BWF World Champion final. Both the players gave it their all. Although Sindhu had three match points, Nozomi Okuhara refused to give in at the end. She even saved one of those match points, playing one of the innumerable long rallies that these two have played over the years. However, Sindhu came up with the trumps in the end, to become the first Indian to clinch the Korean Open Superseries.
There is a large contingent of Indian fans in the stadium, and all go up in unison as Sindhu notches up 3 match points.
Both the players have been left sprawling on the ground this time. They have both played their hearts out in thsi 56-shot rally. Some wonderful badminton showcased by both of them. Who won the rally? Does that matters more than some gut-wrenching badminton? Anyway, Sindhu took that point.
Okuhara keeps fighting. Forces Sidhu to make the errors, and gets back to within two points.
Now its Sindhu's turn to play the tricky shots. She disguised her backhand cross-court shot well, to leave a diving Okahura sprawling on the ground, this time.
However, Okahura fights back with two quick points, at the end of which, Sindhu is left sprawling on the ground, as a result of a devastating smash from her Japanese counterpart.
Luck was not on Okuhara's side that time. The cork stood still on top of the let chord before falling back in the Japanese shuttler's court, after she tried to return a Sindhu drop-shot.
Okahura is up for a fight or two. None of these last few points have been easy for either of these two players. This is yet another excruciating match that they are playing.
Okahura comes back in the first rally of the last phase of the match with a huge smash, which is out of Sindhu's powers. Is there yet another comeback left in her?
Sindhu has well and truly come back into the match. The 6-point lead could come in handy towards the end of the 3rd game.
Now Sindhu gets into the groove, as she takes the lead for the first time in the 3rd game.
OKUHARA TAKES THE 2ND GAME! This has more-or-less been all about Okahura. She moved Sindhu all over the court, and managed to control the flow of points as well. Sindhu needs to recover quickly from this battering. She was almost absent in that game.
Okahura brings up another cross-court drop shot to bring up 10 game points.
Okahura is in complete control now. Despite a few close points, she has managed to slowly increase her big lead.
Sindhu managed to string a couple of points together, but Okahura played a deceptive cross-court shot at the net, to break the momentum.
Okahura has brought her A-game to the plate now. Sindhu worked her all over the court, and yet she returned everything the Indian shuttler threw at her, eventually returning a near-impossible drop shot. In return, the baffled Sindhu could only find the net.
Sindhu did plot a bit of a comeback, but Okahura has upped her game after the break, as she moves Sindhu all around the court.
Okuhara seems to have gathered herself up very well. She has raced into a good lead, early on in the second game.
SINDHU TAKES THE 1ST GAME! These two have had to fight really hard for the first game, which Sindhu takes 22-20, after Okahura hit one long. She did challenge the call, but it was in vain, as the cork was far outside the court.
And the game goes on, as Okahura mis-judges a lob by Sindhu. That was clearly in.
Yet another long rally sees Sindhu hit wide this time. She challenges the call in vain, as hawkeye shows that the cork landed well outside the court.
INHUMAN! Sindhu threw everything she had, at Okahura in that 42-shot rally. Smashes, drop shots, lobs. Okahura held on for 42 shots, before finally hitting it wide, to let Sindhu draw level.
Sindhu has managed to edge into the lead in the second part of the first game. An 35+ shot rally was the price of this 1-point lead. That's how demanding the two players have already been on each other.
There is no lack of excitement when these two are playing. Another long rally, sees Sindhu draw one closer to Okuhara.
And suddenly Okuhara finds herself in the advantage despite Sindhu calling the shots early on in the game.
Okahura goes into the lead for the first time in the match, as Sindhu miscues a defensive shot to hand the Japanese shuttler an easy smash.
Okahura came back with a couple of points, but Sindhu races into the lead again, keeping Okahura at the base line.
Sindhu gets off to a good start with two straight points in the opening game.
The players are done with their warmups, and we are all set for play to begin.
Preview: It’s a repeat of BWF World Badminton Championships final as PV Sindhu take on Nozomi Okuhara in the BWF Korean Open Super Series final here on Sunday.
The Indian, who lost a hard-fought final against her Japanese opponent in Glasgow last month, will like to the return the favour as the two came face to face in the capital city of South Korea.
Sindhu began her Korean Open campaign with a 21-12, 21-8 win against Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi. The Indian shuttler then defeated Thailand's Nitchaon Jindapol in a closely-contested 22-20, 21-17 second round match.
In the quarterfinal clash, Sindhu got the better of Japan’s Minatsu Mitani 21-19, 16-21, 21-10.
In the semifinal clash on Saturday, Sindhu held her nerve as she overcame China's He Bingjiao. Sindhu, who had won the opening game 21-10, could not cash in on a healthy lead in the second game as He Bingjiao won the second game 21-17. Sindhu managed to hold on to the lead and win the third game 21-16 to seal a place in the final.
Meanwhile, eighth-seed Nozomi Okuhara of Japan started her campaign with a stuttering 21-19,21-17 win over Beiwen Zhang of United States of America. In the second round, Okuhara faced her compatriot Sakaya Sato whom she beat 21-16,21-13. In the quarterfinal, Okuhara dispatched Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong. In the semi-final, Okuhara overcame second seed and compatriot Akane Yamaguchi 21-17,21-18 to enter the final.
In the BWF World Championships final last month, both shuttlers gave everything they had in one of the most brutal contests seen in the history of the championship, where neither of them had the strength to stand, but somehow they managed to push themselves.
The 21-shot rally between both of them in the second game was the highlight of the final after the which Okuhara lay flat on the ground with no energy left.
In the end, Okuhara held her nerves and clinched the gold medal by beating Sindhu 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 in a contest that lasted for 110 minutes.
The Korean Open Super Series women’s singles final will be a mouth-watering clash between the two finalists of the World Championships. The match will be expected to be a close -fought affair between the two and the player with strong mental and physical strength will be expected to come out on top.