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Sindhu lone medal hope after Srikanth crashes out

 The Hawk |  2016-08-17 19:19:04.0  0  Comments

Rio de Janeiro: P V Sindhu remains India's lone medal hope in the badminton event after Kidambi Srikanth suffered a fighting loss against two-time defending champion Lin Dan in the men's singles quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics here today. Sindhu scripted a stellar 22-20, 21-19 win against former world number one and London Games silver medallist Wang Yihan to enter the women's semifinals. A win against Japan's Nozomo Okuhara in the semifinal tomorrow will assure Sindhu of a historic medal. However, India's campaign in the men's singles ended today after Srikanth, who had beaten the five-time World Champion Lin Dan in the 2014 China Open final, suffered a 6-21 21-11 18-21 loss against the World No. 3 in a nerve-wrecking quarterfinal. Lin Dan will now take on his long-time rival and two-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in a mouth-watering semifinal clash. The top seed beat sixth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei 21-9 21-15. Srikanth thus remained the second Indian male shuttler to reach the quarterfinals after Parupalli Kashyap achieved the feat at the London Games. A former World No. 3, Srikanth seemed nervous early on and was totally outclassed in the lop-sided opening game which lasted just 16 minutes. Srikanth struggled with his net play early on to allow Lin Dan lead 4-1 in the first game. The left-handed Chinese continued to dominate with his controlled stroke play as he engaged in long rallies with the Indian to lead 10-1 after winning a video referral. With Srikanth once again hitting long, Lin Dan entered the interval at 11-1. After the break, Srikanth tried to get a hold on his nerves and played long rally but always ended up hitting a wayward shot as Lin Dan continued to surge ahead. In the end, it was two unforced errors that gifted the game to the Chinese. There was a visible change in Srikanth's demeanour in the second game as he raced to a 6-3 lead. His strokes got better as he caught the celebrated Chinese off guard a few times with his angled returns and held a six-point advantage at the interval. Srikanth tried to engage Lin Dan in long rallies with some deep corner returns and then came up with some sublime winners to lead 15-8. The Indian missed a video referral to allow Lin Dan a point but his forehand smash found Lin Dan napping next. The Chinese again hit long as Srikanth led 17-9. A cross court backhand return earned Srikanth another point and with the Chinese going long again, meant he had a 10-game point advantage. One smash went wide but Srikanth roared back into the contest with a superb return at the forecourt. In the decider, six-time All England champion, Lin Dan opened up a slender 2-0 lead but Srikanth managed to narrow it down to 3-4 before a superb rally ended with the Chinese stamping his authority to lead 5-3. Srikanth continued to stretch his more experienced rival and drew parity at 6-6 when Lin failed to lift a shot at the net. The Indian played some extraordinary strokes to bamboozle the Chinese. The Indian grabbed a slender lead for the first time at 9-8 when Lin Dan hit long and entered the break with a 11-8 advantage after producing a powerful smash which grounded the Chinese. Srikanth played some excellent strokes at the forecourt, dominating the net which seemed to wary the 32-year-old Chinese briefly. Lin Dan managed to erase the deficit at 13-13 when Srikanth missed the baseline by a whisker after being troubled by the drift. A couple of unforced errors shifted the momentum to Lin Dan's favour as he led 16-14. The Chinese netted one return but his disguised net shot caught Srikanth offcourt. A smash gave a point to the Indian, who pumped himself up after winning every point. However, the sheer quality of his strokes helped Lin Dan lead 19-16 but Srikanth managed to breath down his neck with another superb smash before a rushing shot got buried at the nets and gave the match point to the Chinese. Srikanth saved one match point when Lin Dan's return ended outside the court but the Chinese sealed the issue by pushing the shuttle at the back court. Meanwhile yesterday, two-time World Championship bronze medallist P V Sindhu stood just a win away from assuring India an elusive medal after she stunned Wang Yihan of China to enter the women's singles semifinals. The 21-year-old Indian, who came into the match with a 2-4 head-to-head record, dished out a compact game to outmanoeuvre the more experienced Wang 22-20 21-19 in a gruelling battle lasting 54 minutes. With the memorable win, Sindhu became the second Indian badminton player to reach an Olympic semifinal after Saina Nehwal achieved the feat four years ago. It was a battle of nerves as the duo engaged in fast-paced rallies with each trying to close out the points. Some fierce stroke play was on display with the one having better control prevailing over the other. In the opening game which lasted 29 minutes, Wang raced to a 3-0 lead after dictating the pace of the rallies before Sindhu grabbed a couple of points. The Indian made it 5-5 after Wang hit the net. Sindhu showed some good judgement and accumulated points riding on her opponents unforced errors but Wang still entered the break with a 11-8 lead. Sindhu, who had beaten Wang in the Denmark Open last year, grabbed three straight points to make it 11-12 but left a shuttle at the baseline next. The Indian levelled par at 13-13 when Wang hit it way wide off the court. Sindhu tried to make Wang cover the longest distance by pushing her to the back corner and then drawing her forward to the net, earning her a few points. The Indian used her reach to play some reverse angled strokes to catch Wang off guard and grabbed the lead when Wang found the net. At 18-18, Sindhu won a video referral to get two crucial game point advantage after once again Wang's return buried at the net. What came next was the longest rally which ended with Wang winning the point with a forehand return at the back of the court. The Chinese then roared back when Sindhu hit the nets. Sindhu's cross court returns set up the next point for her and then she earned the bragging rights when Wang missed the line once again. With cheers of 'jetega bhai jetega India jetega' reverberating in the stadium, Sindhu took the court for the second game and soon opened up a 8-3 lead, much to the delight of the Indian fans. There was absolutely no margin for error as the duo tried to outwit each other. In the end it was Wang who failed to rein in her errors to allow Sindhu reach the break with a 11-8 advantage after sealing an aggressive parallel rally with a powerful smash. Everytime the 21-year-old Sindhu outplayed her more experienced rival, she seemed more pumped up as it was followed by a loud cheer from the Indian fans. There were occasional exchanges of looks with coach Pullella Gopichand, who was seen constantly giving his feedback from the sideline. At 18-13, Sindhu moved into a five-point cushion when Wang pushed one wide. The Chinese showed great fighting spirit to reel off the next six points and grabbed the lead with a mid court smash. A good return of serve made it 19-19 before the Indian secured the match point with a powerful smash. Wang hit the net on the decisive point as Sindhu fell to the ground in jubilation.

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