Double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu on Thursday (December 2) joined compatriot Lakshya Sen into the knockout stage of the BWF World Tour Finals, while Kidambi Srikanth’s fate hung in balance after suffering defeat in his second group match.
The 26-year-old Sindhu, the only Indian to win the prestigious title in 2018 and a finalist a year before, outplayed Germany’s world number 23 Yvonne Li 21-10 21-13 in 31 minutes in her second group A match to ensure a place in the top two.
The reigning world champion will square off against top seed Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand next in her last group match. Lakshya, who was guaranteed a place in the semifinal after two of his opponents in group A — Japan’s Kento Momota and Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke — pulled out due to injuries, lost 15-21 14-21 to Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen.
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Following the loss, the 20-year-old from Almora finished at the second spot in the group. Earlier, world number 14 Kidambi Srikanth, who had reached the knockout stage in the 2014 edition of the year-ending event, jeopardised his chances of making it to the next stage after going down 18-21 7-21 to three-time junior world champion Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn in his second men’s singles group B match.
Indian women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy too suffered a defeat, going down fighting 19-21 20-22 to Bulgaria’s Gabriela Stoeva and Stefani Stoeva to bow out of contention. The Indian duo will face England’s Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith in their last Group B match.
The top men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty handed a walkover to the top-seeded Indonesian pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo after the former complained of knee pain. The duo will not take further participation in the tournament.
Sindhu looked in good rhythm and played at a good pace, engaging her rival in short rallies and soon jumped to a 5-1 lead before entering the mid-game interval with a six-point advantage.
The Indian took the initiative and produced some good angled returns to trouble her opponent. Soon Sindhu moved to 10 game points with a precise down-the-line smash and then pocketed the opening game with a deceptive net shot.
After the change of sides, Li produced a better show but Sindhu ensured she had her nose ahead at the interval as she led 11-8. Sindhu ruled the roost after resumption, unleashing her smashes to gather winners. The Indian eventually grabbed seven match points when Li went wide and sealed it after her opponent again sent the shuttle long.
For Srikanth, it was his third defeat to Vitidsarn, having lost to him at the Sudirman Cup in September and Asia Team Championships last year.
In Group B, Malaysian second seed Lee Zii Jia is at the top with two points, while Srikanth and Vitidsarn shared a point each after registering one victory and one loss.
While Srikanth will face Lee Zii Jia in his third match, Vitidsarn will meet France’s Toma Junior Popov. The winner will finish in the top 2 and qualify for the knockout stage, and if both win their respective matches, it will boil down to the number of games won and lost.
The fast-rising world number 23 Vitidsarn was rewarded for his industry and immaculate defence as he didn’t allow Srikanth to mount his attack. There was never a lack of commitment from Srikanth but his younger rival was way better on the day.
Vitidsarn had ran up a 5-2 early lead and went into the break with a healthy 11-6 advantage. A six-point burst allowed Srikanth to narrow it down to 13-15 but the Thai again marched ahead to 19-14 and quickly pocketed the opening game.
It was one-way traffic in the second game as Srikanth just couldn’t match his rival and the rallies where he seemed to trouble his opponent ended with him committing unforced errors. Play was suspended due to poor visibility with Srikanth lagging 6-13 but it didn’t matter much as Vitidsarn closed out the match by taking the next 8 points.
On Wednesday, Lakshya, the youngest Indian to qualify for the year-ending event, made it to the semifinals after his opponent Momota retired with a back injury and Gemke, who is also in Group A, conceded his match against Axelsen due to a knee injury.