The Carolina Marin-Pusarla V Sindhu final at the Rio Olympics shattered TV viewership records in India and elevated interest in badminton to stratospheric levels. On Sunday, Pusarla’s countrymen will get to witness a repeat of that titanic clash in New Delhi after the two protagonists won their Women’s Singles semi-finals at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open 2017.
Pusarla’s semi-final against Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun was in line with some of their recent clashes. It was essentially Sung’s steady, flowing game against Pusarla’s heavy artillery, and each player enjoyed spells of dominance.
The Indian (featured image) shot off to a 10-4 lead in the third thanks to some unreturnable net shots; Sung made a defiant last stand, stitching together a sequence of points and getting to 10-12. The spell was broken with a high serve that let her down — Pusarla regained the advantage with a smash off the serve and accelerated from that point to seal the match 21-18 14-21 21-14.
“Whenever I play her it’s a long match. I had that in mind… there were a lot of long rallies. She never let anything get past her,” said Pusarla.
Speaking of the much-anticipated final against Marin, the Indian was confident she could recover in time. “I hope it’s not a repeat of the Rio result. There will be huge crowd support. It will be a good match. Since Rio, we’ve played in Dubai and the Premier Badminton League… I will have the home advantage, but it will be a fresh game. The courts are different and the shuttles are different… everything is different, the strategy will be fresh… it’s about who plays better on the day.”
Earlier, Olympic champion Carolina Marin gave herself a shot at a first Superseries crown in over a year, beating a player who has frequently troubled her in the past – Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi.
When Yamaguchi levelled a first-game deficit from 6-12 to 14-all, it looked like another close contest on the cards. Marin however stepped up a gear and shot ahead, 21-16 21-14.
“It was a tricky match,” Marin said. “Akane is a tough player and I was well prepared for her. I’m looking forward to the final. I hope the crowd will support me if Sindhu reaches the final.”
The Men’s Doubles final will see the same cast that featured in last year’s title clash. Defending champions Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi made it an all-Indonesian affair with three-game wins in the semi-finals.
Pratama and Suwardi produced their best performance in recent times with an assured display against China’s Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen. Showing a measure of calm in the face of fierce attack, the Indonesians deftly played the shuttle around, creating spaces at the front court and converting the opportunities that opened up.
“We reached two finals last year but couldn’t win a title – I hope we can do it tomorrow,” said Pratama. “We feel we are focussing much better. The main thing is communication. I would say this is the best match we’ve played in a long time – better than the match we won in the Thomas Cup final last year.”
Gideon and Sukamuljo were taken to three games by Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding, but the third game was pretty much one-way traffic with the Indonesians keeping the Danes on the back foot right through, thanks to Sukamuljo’s brilliance at the net and Gideon’s tireless work from the back.
The Mixed Doubles will be an all-China encounter. Second seeds Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong outclassed England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock 21-13 21-13 and will run into Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen, who received a walkover from Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying.