Japan's world no. 4 Akane Yamaguchi pulled off a mighty comeback to defeat India's top shuttler and world no. 6 P V Sindhu in their opening match at the BWF World Tour Finals 2019 on Wednesday in Guangzhou, China. The 22-year-old beat Sindhu 18-21, 21-18, 21-8 in a match lasting for 1 hour and 8 minutes
Sindhu gained an upper hand in the opening game with the Japanese the conceding to several errors. Sindhu showed mettle in an extensive rally to outplay and drain Yamaguchi and reach the interval leading 11-8. Sindhu's elegance with smashes gave her further cushioning of six points at 17-11. The Japanese tried to come back manoeuvring Sindhu on all corners of the court to gain four points in a row. But Sindhu managed to hammer yet another smash which proved beyond her opponent's reach, to make it 18-15. Sindhu eventually pocketed the match with three game points.
A toe-to-toe competition ensued from the very beginning of the second game where a feisty Yamaguchi took the early lead, Sindhu, however, showcased commanding badminton with a 42-shot rally and managed to get better off the Japanese at 6-4. Some spellbinding rallies continued between the two and Hyderabad girl reigned to gain a five-point cushioning of 11-6 at the interval. Yamaguchi showed her fluency to deliver smashes which Sindhu failed to deliver and took it to 12-9. Some continuous drop shots started Sindhu trouble but she got to hold off the grip with a smash from near the court and make it 14-11. Yamaguchi lost all her challenges but closed the gap and with a 34-shot rally made it 14-15 and eventually to 15-15. The Japanese held on to her nerves as rallies unfurled with both the challengers playing their best badminton and took the game to 18-18. Yamaguchi's slight was a sight to watch who eventually took a lead at 20-18 and pull off a stunning turnaround to win the game.
Yamaguchi caught Sindhu on the backfoot in the decisive game and took the lead to 5-0. Wrong judgements and shot errors further cost the Indian points. Though Sindhu was making the most of the half-chances, the 22-year-old's tenacity further swayed the match away from Sindhu who trailed 3-11 at the interval. The game turned further lopsided as Yamaguchi didn't give any space to Sindhu and went to win 21-8.
The defending champion at the World Tour finals, Sindhu had shown streaks of her brilliance during the 2018 tournament where she took down quality opponents like Akane Yamaguchi, Tai Tzu Ying, and Beiwen Zhang and crushed the challenge from Ratchanok Itnanon and eventually, Nozomi Okuhara to claim the title.
Owing to her lacklustre performance in 2019, Sindhu would have missed out on the chance to enter the World Tour Finals had she not been crowned as the World Champion earlier this year in Basel. The ace Hyderabadi player has been drawn in Group A alongside China’s Chen Yufei, He Bingjiao, and Yamaguchi. Sindhu will play Yufei tomorrow and the top two shuttlers from the group will march into the next round.