P V Sindhu eases into quarterfinals of Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo: Reigning badminton world champion P V Sindhu sailed into the women’s singles quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics with a straight-game triumph over Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt here on Thursday.

The 26-year-old Indian, who won a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics, completed a 21-15 21-13 win over 13th seed Blichfeldt in a 41-minute match.

“I started off well in the first game but around 15-16 I gave a couple of points because I was rushing in my defence. My coach was telling me that I was playing the wrong way and I realised that and I immediately changed my tactics and completed the first game,” Sindhu told media after the match.

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“Second game I was fine, I was maintaining the lead and finished it off.”

Sindhu will next face Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, who defeated Korea’s Kim Gaeun 21-17 21-18 in another pre-quarterfinals.

The sixth seeded Indian has a 11-7 head-to-head count against the Japanese world no 5, whom she had last beaten at the All England Championship in March this year.

Sindhu mixed her strokes well, putting her attacking clears and drops to good use besides smashing her way to finish points whenever there was a chance.

She anticipated the shuttle better and showed good court coverage.

Blichfeldt did have her moments but she was too erratic to sustain the pressure on the Indian, who was always a step ahead of her rival during the contest.

Blichfeldt had a 2-0 lead early on but Sindhu soon took back control at 6-4 and kept her nose ahead before unleashing a cross court smash to enter the interval with a healthy 11-6 lead.

The Danish shuttler scripted a mini comeback, winning six of the next seven points, riding on a few smashes and Sindhu’s unforced errors.

An unlucky net chord broke the run of points but Blichfeldt sent down two straight smashes to again narrow it to 14-16 before succumbing to a series of unforced errors.

The Indian revved up the pace in the second game to zoom to 5-0 but a wrong line judgement from her ended the run of points.

Blichfeldt tried to find an opening but Sindhu was always a step ahead as she again held a five-point advantage at the break.

After the interval, Sindhu lost a few points due to the occasional brilliance shown by her rival and sometimes, her own unforced error, but she was always in control and soon wrapped it up with a delicate shot near the net.

On Wednesday, Sindhu had defeated world No. 34 Hong Kong’s NY Cheung 21-9 21-16 to top Group J.

Sindhu is the lone Indian badminton hope left in fray after B Sai Praneeth’s maiden Olympic campaign ended in agony in the men’s competition.

He went down in straight games to Mark Caljouw of Netherlands for his second defeat in Group D.

On Tuesday, the men’s doubles team of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy suffered a heartbreak after failing to make the quarterfinals despite winning two matches in their group.

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